Eating mucus

Eating mucus
Eating mucus
Classification and external resources

A man picking his nose

Eating mucus is the act of extracting nasal mucus and the succeeding action of ingesting the resulting product of this nose-picking. Nasal mucus is also termed as boogers, snot, nose crusts, bogeys, dried nasal mucus, mucus secretion, and other related terms including comerse los mocos (to eat one's snot).[1]

Booger eating is a common behavior in children occurring from psychological disorders or simply resulting from habit. Some scientists argue that booger eating provides benefits for the human body as well as potential health risks. However, this action is condemned in most cultures and societies which try to prevent development of the habit and attempt to break it if already established. Booger eating is a source of mockery and entertainment in the media thus confirming the social scorn previously mentioned.


Social pressures

Living in the United States, individuals are continually concerned with appearance and strive to look hygienic in public. "Nasal mucus is socially acceptable, whereas its ingestion through the mouth is not" and has been labeled as a "transgressional behavior."[1] If one became labeled as dirty, this would cause humiliation and would affect social status. This is applicable to adults and children as well.[2] Andrade and Srihari's study showed that 27.5% of the students from their sample suffered social embarrassment as a result of nose picking; 11% were told they had a psychiatric disorder because of their habit.[3] It is reasonable to presume that if these individuals were caught eating this nasal debris, the percentages would increase dramatically.

Cultural views

American parents scorn booger eating and may inflict punishment on children who participate. Although the habit is well-known and recognized throughout all nations, it is not discussed in Western or Indian texts.[3] Women in the Netherlands and India are motivated to teach their children proper hygiene due to a desire for them to be happy, to be healthy, and to be accepted into the social world. Hindus also separate pure and impure in their caste system based on hygiene. In 1872, Charles Darwin, an English naturalist, suggested that being disgusted by poor hygiene prevented people from catching diseases.[2]

Child development

Curtis' study on hygiene suggests that habits are developed at a young age when behavioral learning occurs. Booger eating is mainly during early childhood before socialization and realization that the habit is unacceptable and peers do not want to associate with a "booger eater." Maria Portalatin states, "... children are allowed to pick their noses and eat the snot until they reach the age when they can understand the rules and prohibitions of their social environment."[1] Dr. Friedrich Bischinger notes that children stop eating their boogers as adulthood approaches due to societal pressures labeling the habit as disgusting.[4] Although children are more likely to pick their noses and eat the boogers, Fabian Gorodzinsky claims that adults participate in nose picking as well but differ from children due to the use of a tissue in private.[5]


"Germs are not the only issue when wanting to change behavior."[2] Curtis suggests that humans have "predispositions to behaviors" and need motivation and a cooperative environment to encourage change of habits. Teresa Pitman assists parents with providing this cooperative environment with techniques to promote hygienic behavior in children. These tips include:

  • Offer a tissue to avoid nose picking which in turn prevents booger eating.
  • Utilize a vaporizer and give extra fluids to avoid dried mucus, minimizing the urge to pick the nose.
  • Remind the child to wash his/her hands after nose picking.
  • Teach that nose picking bothers others that see it and encourage the child to do it in the bathroom if it is necessary.[5]


Booger eating comes with many health risks due to the physical destruction resulting from the action of nose picking, and the germs on fingers and in mucus. Picking one's nose can cause upper airway destruction as well as other injuries including nasal septal perforation (a "through-and-through defect" of the cartilage separating the nostrils),[6] and epistaxis (nosebleed), which can cause anemia (low levels of red blood cells). In Andrade and Srihari's aforementioned study, 25% of subjects were ailed by nose bleeds, 17% with nasal infections, and 2% with damage more serious than bleeding.[3] W. Buzina studied the fungal diversity in nasal mucus in 2003. 104 samples were gathered with 331 identifiable strains of fungi and 9 different species per patient.[7]

Heiman F. L. Wertheim states that about a third of the human population carries Staphylococcus aureus in the nose. Hands are major transmitters of this microorganism from the environment to the nose; thus, Wertheim concluded that nose picking may be causal of nose carriage of this pathogen.[8] Ingesting these fungi, germs, and pathogens contained in boogers as well as the act of extracting them from the nose potentially causes many health issues and poses risks for overall wellness of the body.


According to Dr. Friedrich Bischinger, a lung specialist in Austria, those who eat their boogers are happy and in tune with their bodies.[1] He also suggests that booger eating is one of the best ways to stay healthy.[9] He encourages booger eating and says, "Medically it makes great sense and is a perfectly natural thing to do ... When this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine" due to the antiseptics and antibodies contained within the mucus.[9]

Jane Stephenson compares boogers to vaccines. She says the germs in dried nasal mucus are already dead or weakened and once absorbed through digestion, they help the immune system produce antibodies which fight infection, having the same effect as a vaccine. She speculates that children who participate in booger eating may be healthier than those who do not because their immune systems are strengthened by the ingested germs.[9] Maria Portalatin delves further into immune system benefits; she claims that ingested mucus stimulates B-lymphocytes, which produce antibodies to fight infection. The more the immune system is exposed to nasal mucus, the more effective the antibodies are in recognizing antigens. She concludes, "... as a result, the immune response is improved and becomes increasingly faster."[1]

Possible reasons

The Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder Association of South Africa collectively concluded that nose picking [and booger eating] are passing behaviors.[3] Andrade and Srihari studied persons who were more apt to suffer from "habitual and obsessive–compulsive behaviors." They discovered that those with psychotic issues showed correlation between nose picking and self-mutilation motives.[3] Diagnoses have also included passive–aggressive character disorder and schizophrenia.[10]

Booger eating has also been referred to as a "tension phenomenon" based on children's ability to function in their environment. The different degrees of effectively fitting in socially may indicate psychiatric disorders or developmental stress reactions. However, most mothers view these habits as pathological issues.[11] Moreover, Andrade and Srihari cited a study performed by Sidney Tarachow of the State University of New York which reported that people who ate their boogers found them "tasty."[3]

Maria Portalatin states that children "gain awareness of themselves" through reaching inside themselves through orifices. They do this because they can recognize their external appearance but "have no information whatsoever about their internal anatomy." Children also explore their environment through taste and described snot as having no scent and "a pleasant flavor and texture."[1] As she asked children concerning their booger eating habits, she received many answers. Some children told her they did it because it was something that belonged to them; others told her that they simply like it. Another reason she received was "it felt like a relief to leave their nose clean in order to breathe more freely" and since what they pulled out was solid, they just ate it.[1]

Also, in her study, Portalatin found that "nose-picking was almost universal among adults."[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Portalatin, Maria Jesus. "Eating Snot – Socially Unacceptable but Common: Why?" Consuming the inedible: neglected dimensions of food choice (2007): 177–187. Print.
  2. ^ a b c Curtis. "Hygeine: How Myths, Monsters, and Mothers-in-law can Promote Behaviour Change." Journal of Infection 43 (2001): 75–79. Web. 23 Sept. 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Andrade, Chittaranjan, and Srihari, B.S. (2001). "A Preliminary Survey of Rhinotillexomania in an Adolescent Sample." J Clin Psychiatry 62: 426–431.
  4. ^ Daethian. "Top doc says booger eating good for you." The Conversation Café. Jelsoft Enterprises, 26 March 2004. Web. 23 Sept. 2009.
  5. ^ a b Pitman, Teresa. "Boogers!" Today's Parent 25.11 (Nov. 2008): 174–175. Google Scholar. Web. 21 Sept. 2009.
  6. ^ Romo, Thomas III. "Septal Perforation: Surgical Aspects." eMedicine. Web MD, 24 Jul. 2007. Web. 25 Sept. 2009.
  7. ^ Buzina, W. "Fungal Biodiversity-as found in nasal mucus." Medical Mycology 41.2 (2003): 149–161. Google Scholar. Web. 18 Sept. 2009.
  8. ^ Wertheim, Heiman. "Nose Picking and Nasal Carriage of Staphylococcus aureus." Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology 27.8 (Aug. 2006): 863–867. Web. 23 Sept. 2009.
  9. ^ a b c Stephenson, Jane. "Benefits of Booger-Eating." Associated Content-Lifestyle. N.p. 8 Feb. 2007. Web. 23 Sept. 2009.
  10. ^ Caruso, Ronald. "Self-induced Ethmoidectomy from Rhinotillexomania." American Society of Neuroradiology 18 (Nov 1997): 1949–1950. Google Scholar. Web. 18 Sept. 2009.
  11. ^ Lapouse, Rema. "An Epidemiologic Study of Behavior Characteristics in Children." American School Health Association 48.9 (12 Nov. 1957): 1134–44. Google Scholar. Web. 18 Sept. 2009.

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