- Over 90% of adults pick their noses, and many people end up eating those boogers.
- But it turns out, snacking on snot is a bad idea.
- Boogers trap invading viruses and bacteria before they can enter your body, so eating boogers might expose your system to these pathogens.
Odds are you are surrounded by nose-pickers. It’s true, in one study, 91% of adults admitted to picking their nose regularly. So, chances are, you’ve probably mined for some juicy nose nuggets yourself. But maybe you didn’t stop there. Maybe you ate those boogers too! And it turns out, that slimy snack could hurt more than just your social standing.
Let’s take a closer look at that booger. It’s mostly made of water, gel-like proteins that give it that gooey consistency and special immune proteins that fight off germs. Those immune proteins are especially useful. Because boogers are teeming with harmful viruses, like influenza.
That’s the whole point, actually. Boogers serve as your body’s front-line defense against invading germs. When you breathe in, you’re not just inhaling air. You’re also taking in bacteria, viruses, and dirt. Which get trapped by a layer of sticky snot that lines your nostrils. It’s like fly paper for the flu. And as you continue to breathe, air hardens the mucus into a solid booger, a gooey prison cell for your ensnared enemies. Now, normally, you can get rid of that bacteria-ridden ball either when you sneeze or blow your nose.
But if you decide to eat it instead it stands to reason that you’re putting yourself at risk of infection. Because as your body digests the booger, it can release those harmful pathogens into your system.
Now, some people claim that eating your boogers can strengthen your immune system. By training your body to recognize and attack invading microbes. But, sorry to say, there’s zero scientific evidence to support any health benefits from eating your boogers.
And besides whether or not you eat your boogers just getting ahold of them can be dangerous. For example, scratching up the inside of your nose opens the door for a nasty bacteria that lurks under your fingernails, Staphylococcus aureus. A 2006 study found that nose-pickers were more likely to have Staph in their nose than those who abstain. And that’s a big problem. Since Staph can cause serious abscesses or pus-filled pockets inside your nose and on your face. Even worse, if you keep picking you could actually puncture your septum.
In one case, a 53 year old woman managed to carve a hole right through her sinus. And if that sinus becomes infected badly enough, it can erode your skull leaving a door open for bacteria to march right into your brain.
To be fair, these are extreme scenarios. One time probably won’t hurt you. The next time you feel the urge to mine for green gold, just grab a tissue.