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Friday, May 24, 2024

Ask Ms. Scientist: eye boogers and airplane germs

Dear Ms. Scientist,

What are eye boogers?

John D.

Eye boogers are actually a type of fluid called rheum composed of mucus, skin cells, dust and oils. Rheum is a natural product, also discharged from your nose and mouth. The rheum that comes from your eyes is called gound. This gound gets washed down your tear ducts during waking hours when you blink. When you’re asleep, it’s a different story. You aren’t blinking so the gound builds up in the corners of your eyes. Then, it dries and hardens and the eye booger forms. What makes the eye gunk drier or wetter? For most, it depends on the person’s eye dryness. As in, those with chronic dry eye will have dry eye boogers. People with allergies tend to have wetter eye boogers. While they look and feel gross, eye boogers are a fact of life and actually protect the eye.

Dear Ms. Scientist,

Where is germiest seat on an airplane?

Abi K.

Spring break is just a few weeks away. While many of us will stay in Madison, some of us will be headed away, flying across the country on an airplane. Everyone knows, though, that airplanes are the perfect place to catch a cold. Let’s be real, they’re like little germ factories. Here’s what you should avoid on your travels. Don’t use the seat pockets. Many people use them as trash cans. Tray tables are also gross, sorry. At the very least, wipe the tray off and avoid direct contact with it. The bathrooms, of course, are also germy. Some recommend using paper towels and disinfectant when using these restrooms, which are shared among the same 50 people. Additionally, avoid the touch screen entertainment systems and SkyMall magazines. Apparently, these things are rarely cleaned. All in all, avoid the aisle seats. Passengers use these to balance when walking past, causing the seats to be loaded with germs. To be safe, pack some hand sanitizer in your carry-on.

Ask Ms. Scientist is written by Julie Spitzer. If you have a burning science question you want her to answer, email it to

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