The Controversial Science of Picking Your Nose – SWR Knowledge

Picking your nose in public is reprehensible. If you overdo it, it can also have negative consequences. On the other hand, eating baggers can be beneficial for the immune system. Things to know about International Nose Pick Day on April 23.















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Many people do this when they feel unattended. It’s totally normal for kids, but more than half of adults still do it, but very few admit it.

Who is really right? Parents who say it’s unhealthy, but are likely to secretly poke themselves? Or kids who love to spot a snack in their nose?



What most people find disgusting is a tasty snack for some: ingested nasal sprays may have a positive effect on the immune system.


imago pictures



imago / PantherMedia / Norbert Schaeffer


Is nose picking harmful?

Whether nose plucking is harmful or not: On the one hand, it can, of course, lead to injuries: for example, if the blood vessels at the anterior end of the nasal septum (the Kesselbachy position) are injured, nosebleeds can occur. Injuries so small that you don’t feel them are possible. This then causes more secretions to be produced, which then dry up and become new mucus. Ultimately, it’s a vicious cycle: the more you click, the more it keeps popping up.

In extreme cases, when nose-sucking becomes compulsive – this is called manic rhinitis – it can be really harmful. This can result in a septal amputation, but it is really extremely rare.



Nosebleeds can be a possible consequence if you overdo it when picking your nose.  (Photo: imago images, imago / mhphoto)

Nosebleeds can be a possible consequence if you overdo it when picking your nose.


imago pictures



IMAGO / mhphoto


But there are also voices saying that it is harmless?

In fact, some say that nose sucking is not only harmful, it can even be beneficial! On the other hand, you should not let mucus in your nose and both blowing and pulling your nose can be harmful as well.

On the other hand, booger food can be beneficial for the immune system. Pathogens are deposited in the mucus, which has already become harmless due to the enzymes present in the nasal secretion. And if you eat it now, it could also be a natural vaccination: the immune system recognizes harmless pathogens and forms antibodies against them. But this may only be a hypothesis. Not sure if there is anything really there.



Not only children poke.  Anyone who denies this should have a look at their nose.  (Photo: imago pictures, imago stock and people)

Not only children poke. Anyone who denies this should have a look at their nose.


imago pictures



imago stock and people


How can you stop scratching your nose?

It is definitely not easy. Quitting smoking can be almost as easy.

But you can make it a little easier: the more moist the frontal mucosa, the fewer inhibitions. And using a nasal shower, for example, you can be sure that the mucous membrane does not dry out so quickly.



Lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) picking its nose (Photo: imago Images, imago Stock & People)

Picking your nose isn’t really a human fad. This low-lying gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) also appears to enjoy picking its nose.


imago pictures



imago stock and people


It may seem a little strange at first, but once you get used to it, it can be really relaxing. It is almost impossible to overstate it. So no problem at all two or three times a day.

You can also take a splash of sea water along the way. Under no circumstances should you take decongestant nasal spray for a long time, as some people do when they have a cold. At some point, this will definitely be more harmful than banging.



The nose is moistened from the inside with nasal sea water spray.  This results in fewer dry boogers.  (Photo: Imago Images, Imago Images/Phototech)

The nose is moistened from the inside with nasal sea water spray. This results in fewer dry boogers.


imago pictures



imago photos / photothek


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