cry baby cry
June 29, 2009 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Are some tears saltier than others?

I got some crummy news recently that had me squeezing out a few tears. Immediately, my eyes were bloodshot, puffy and required serious Visene-ing to get back to normal.

Yesterday, I watch Up and am crying after the opening montage. I sneak into the bathroom for some tissues and notice that after drying off my face I'm fine. Bright-eyed (bushy-tailed?), fine. No signs that Pixar had been twisting my emotions.

Why? I don't think that the quantity of tears is the issue (my crying spell was brief in the first example and embarassingly prolonged in the second). Could the depth of emotions felt be at play?

Just curious.
posted by thatelsagirl to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's probably related to how hydrated or dehydrated you are when you cry.
posted by amro at 9:42 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

The past week or so, I've been exercising more than usual. And it's been hot as blazes. Therefore, I've been drinking a lot more water, usually spiked with flavored powder. IN fact, almost *always* spiked with Propel. So I've got plenty of electrolytes in my system.

And man, every eyebooger I've wiped out of my eyes has been *stinky* with salt.
posted by notsnot at 9:58 AM on June 29, 2009

It should be the same as your blood saline. Tear glands have no mechanism for varying salt content.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:11 AM on June 29, 2009

According to WP, the chemical composition of tears does vary somewhat, at least in terms of hormonal content. Don't see how this could account for what you experienced, though.
posted by tigrrrlily at 10:18 AM on June 29, 2009

I am in no way a physician but here's my take on it, based on personal experience.

It's really all about context. Your body reacts differently depending on the circumstances. Whether it be emotional context, or illness, or whatever. I'm a guy so I have to say definitively that no opera, film, or song has ever made me tear up. Nope. Nor having my heart broken and crushed. Nary a tear. I swear. I can admit to having had food poisoning and crying like a little girl as I was barfing for 24 hours though.

The point is that your physiological responses vary. IMHO, there's a big difference between a dramatic event (like a loved one dying etc) and the effect it has on your body and experiencing something beautiful (like a painting or a film or, say, Henryck Gorecki's Symphony No. 3). Whether it's saltier or nor might have more to do with your diet.
posted by elendil71 at 11:28 AM on June 29, 2009

Not finding the cite now, but I have read of people who work in especially dusty environments having excessive minerals in their tears. Not sure that's what you're referring to (article was about child rug makers in the middle east)
posted by nax at 12:37 PM on June 29, 2009

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