Is nose-picking healthy?

Nose-picking is an act of removing nasal mucus with one’s finger. There are different reasons why people may pick their nose. Some do it to relieve discomfort from their overly dry or moist noses. Others unconsciously do it out of a habit. In extreme situations, few people developed a compulsive and repetitive urge to nose-picking. Although generally there are no harms in casually putting a finger down your nose to remove dried snots, there are potential risks when you do it often.

Here are some of the reasons why it is bad to pick your nose:

Nasal Cavity Abrasion. Frequent nose-picking can irritate the fragile tissues of the nasal cavities. When a nasal abrasion occurs, nose bleeding may happen. To effectively stop a nosebleed, lean forward and breathe through the mouth while firmly pinching the soft part of the nose for about 15 minutes. In doing so, the blood will drain into the nose instead of moving down towards the throat.

Bacterial Susceptibility. In 2006, Dutch researchers found out that nose pickers will likely carry Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in their noses. Staph bacteria can cause skin infections, including boils and cellulitis. Since fingernails are also hotbeds for many bacteria, irritating the nasal cavity with dirty fingers may lead to more internal severe cases such as bacteremia and toxic shocks syndrome.

Deviated Septum. The partition that divides our nostrils is called the septum. Excessive nose-picking can cause considerable damage to this area, resulting in a nasal hole or septum fissure. Deviated septum causes symptoms such as nasal obstruction, abnormal mucus discharge, nasal crusts, and whistling noises from the nose. The closer the perforation is to the nostrils, the more likely will the symptoms appear.

Alternatives to Nose-picking

Nasal Spray. Some people’s noses create too many boogers. To treat this problem, you may purchase over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays. Remember to use nasal sprays correctly, especially in two forms: the regular and pump design. At times that there will be a nasal infection, doctors advise treating the area with a petroleum-based product or an antibiotic ointment.

Use a Tissue. Your fingers and boogers are full of germs. To prevent causing an infection, always use a tissue to remove the dried mucus. If there aren’t any tissue papers around, always make sure your hands are clean before sticking them inside. Alcohol or hand sanitizers will do the trick.

Use a Neti Pot. Neti pots are used to irrigate nasal passages to clear up dried mucus or sticky boogers. Doctors suggest rinsing your nasal cavity with saline solutions. Saline solutions in neti pots help moisten the nostrils, thereby thins the mucus and flush it out the nasal passages.

Preventing the Urge to Nose-pick:

The majority of people who tend to pick their noses were removing their boogers out. Boogers are dried mucus that is made of dirt and debris. However, boogers aren’t all disgusting. They are the ones protecting the nasal airways from inhaling foreign objects. Cilia, those tiny hairs in the nose, move the dried mucus from the nasal cavity to the front of the nose where it can be picked.

In most cases, constant nose-picking means constant booger-formation. Changes in the environment can potentially stop excessive boogers from forming.

Here are some tips you can do:

Keep room humidity normal. During winter, when humidity becomes too low, our nasal passages have a hard time to produce adequate moisture. In turn, it causes dried sinuses and dried mucus. Try bumping up the humidity in your place using a humidifier. Also, opt to switch out your carpets and keep the room clean as they hold allergens that keeps your nose producing more mucus than usual.

Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke. Cigarette smoking is linked with the overproduction of mucus. When a person smokes, the mucus-producing cells grow in size and number, resulting in excessive and thick mucus.

Drink plenty of water. Dehydration also contributes to the drying of the nasal cavity and the overproduction of thick mucus. Drinking plenty of water keeps the nasal cavity moisturized – the mucus becomes thin, and the sinuses drain faster. Alternatively, you can inhale through a damp cloth to quickly replenish the moisture in the nose.

Always wear a mask. Inhaling irritants such as smogs and chemical fumes lead to overproduction of the mucus. Avoid going to polluted places and protect yourself with a mask. Also, keep your allergies in check.

In a nutshell, casual nose-picking is not a health concern. Nose-picking only becomes unhealthy when it is done excessively, especially with unsanitized hands.

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