healthHealth and Medicine

90 Percent Of You Pick Your Nose And Lots Of You Eat It. Here's Why You Really Shouldn't

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockAug 5 2021, 11:24 UTC
Don't do this

Don't do this. Image credit: Yotka/

There's a good chance you regularly pick your own nose if you're anything like the inhabitants of Wisconsin. This isn't a burn on Wisconsin, but because the best data we have on nose-picking happens to be from a study of that specific population.

A team in 1995 was attempting to find out how common-place the practice of consuming your own bogies is among adults, and whether some people do it to the point that it could be considered a psychiatric disorder. They anonymously surveyed randomly selected residents of Dane County, Wisconsin, and found that a whopping 91 percent of them were current nose-pickers, though only about 75 percent of people thought that it was something that everyone else does.


"This first population survey of nose-picking suggests," they concluded, "that it is an almost universal practice in adults".

So is mucophagy – the mildest form of autocannibalism? – good or bad for you? Well, there are a few pros and cons to way up, even if you leave out the flavor and/or looks you get from people around you.

First off, getting the boogers out of your nose in the first place may cause you harm, in the form of potential staph infections, with nose-pickers significantly more likely to harbor Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in their noses than non-pickers, with the authors of the study that found this noting that "the role of nose picking in nasal carriage may well be causal in certain cases."


Though having this bacteria in your nose doesn't always lead to infection, if it does develop into a staph infection you could be looking at boils, blisters and painful lumps. Not a great start, booger consumers.

People who compulsively pick their nose also run the risk of infection by creating wounds in their nose. In one particularly horrifying case, a 53-year-old woman who had picked her nose since she was ten ripped a hole through the part of the nose wall that separates the nostrils.

There are those out there who believe that eating your boogers is good for you. Among them, one Dr Friedrich Bischinger. Bischinger made waves with a claim that eating your boogers is a good way to boost your immune system, and even encourages the eating of the mucus by children for this reason. As well as being a bit grim, there's really no evidence to back this claim up. Since your mucus effectively traps germs and microbes like fly paper as they enter your nose and stops them from going further into your body, it defeats the point somewhat to then consume these trapped germs down another tube.


A few years ago, there were news stories that eating your boogers could be good for your teeth, given that mucins protect the surface of the teeth from being filled with certain bacteria. But this was actually based on a study that looked at salivary mucus. Lord knows how many bogies you'd have to smear on your teeth to produce the same effect.

In summary, it's probably best to just blow your nose, even if nobody is watching.

 This Week in IFLScience

Receive our biggest science stories to your inbox weekly!

healthHealth and Medicine
  • tag
  • boogers