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I absolutely love picking my nose and eating bogies! But will this make me ill? © Dan Bright

I absolutely love picking my nose and eating bogies! But will this make me ill?

Published: 03rd January, 2022 at 11:00
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Bleuch!! Keep those green, nose-picking fingers out of your mouth and, better still, out of your nose too.

We’ve all watched distastefully as our toddlers’ fingers creep towards their nose, dig around for a bogie, and whip it into their mouth. Of course, we would never do that ourselves. Not even when our cameras are turned off during a video conference. Never.


The technical name for bogie-eating is mucophagy, and when it becomes a true, obsessional habit, it is known as rhinotillexomania. But is this behaviour safe? After all, bogies are made of bacteria, viruses and dirt that get trapped by the little hairs and mucus in your nose.

Some argue that eating them might be good for us. The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ is a theory that early exposure to germs and certain infections can boost the development of the immune system. But all of this has been difficult to prove; as you might imagine, it’s hard to recruit enough volunteers for a proper study on bogie dining.

All in all, it’s probably not a great idea. If your hands are carrying bacteria or viruses, the act of sticking them up your nose can lead to illness. And if you’re the one that’s carrying a bacteria or virus, you’re more likely to spread it if you don’t wash your hands afterwards.

So next time you or your toddler are tempted to snack on your nose greens, try to reach for a tissue instead – it’s probably not worth the risk.

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Dr Nish Manek is a GP in London. She completed her medical degree at Imperial College and was runner-up in the University of London Gold Medal. Manek has also developed teaching courses for Oxford Medical School, and has penned articles for The Guardian and Pulse magazine.


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