Warning! This article may make you sick to your stomach.
Kids do it. Adults sitting at red lights who think they are sitting behind invisible glass do it. Animals do it. And parents across the globe, cringe in disgust or quickly shame their children when they see them picking their noses. In a world where more people are carrying around an arsenal of hand sanitizer and germophobia is increasingly becoming a psychological problem – people picking their noses and eating it – is still as prevalent as flatulence. (And just as gross) The question is, is eating your boogers unhealthy, or is it just gross, and considered bad matters. After all, the last thing you want to see when you are with your child is the deep concentration that comes with booger mining, and then the subsequent eating of the slimy, gross booger.
Why would a child that cannot stomach broccoli, even with cheese on it, choose to put a disgusting booger from their nasal passages into their mouth and swallow? That will forever be a mystery.
Interestingly enough, some new research that has emerged from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon seems to indiate that albeit gross and rude – booger eating may not be as unhealthy as one might think.
First of all, if you look at the pathology behind immunizations – building the immune system is all about exposing the immune system to certain antibodies. Infants are born with a plethora of antibodies that they received from their mother during pregnancy. And breast fed babies get even more. Immunizations introduce virus and bacteria into the body, in the hopes that the body will be able to effectively and more strongly fight off the infections in the future. And kids upon starting school may be sick for a year or so, only to build up enough immunity as they age to not catch every airborne illness floating around the school. It has been well known that one of the most damaging effects of children placed in NICU after birth is that the environment is so sterile, that the infants dont build up their immune systems as quickly, or as strongly as babies who are exposed to germs right after birth. In fact, according to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta Georgia that has one of the largest NICU nurseries in the world, many of the infants there will go on to have allergy or ashtma issues well into childhood.
That being said, when a child sticks their finger up their nose, and pulls out mucous and then reenters that mucous, germs and all back into the body – they are in a round about way, boosting their immune system. Certainly, there are many pathogens responsible for nearly every illness known to mankind that live in colonies in the nose. So when a child eats the mucousy remains from the nasal membranes, they are certainly ingesting a host of germs. Not to mention the fact that the germs that live on their fingers and finger nails (which they are putting in their noses during picking) are only creating what could be considered a germaphobes nightmare.
And yet, research tends to think that this digusting behavior, may actually be a natural way for children (and sadly adults) to stregnthen their immune system. For one thing, (and for those that don’t know) boogers are actually palatable. They have a sugary taste, which is the reason that kids eat them to begin with. Sure, they don’t taste like skittles, but they certainly don’t taste or smell like feces either. Some scientists believe that since mucous is palatable, that perhaps nose picking and eating the boogers is just a natural way to stay healthy. (No matter how disgusting)
This of course doesn’t mean that you should encourage the behavior in order to build you or your child’s immune system. The fact however remains, that the more bacteria and virus that our healthy bodies are exposed to, the easier it is for us to fight off infection should we come in contact with those antibodies at a later date. So for humans that are generally healthy, the whole booger eating fiasco, is probably not risky, nor is it responsible for a human actually catching a cold or virus. Plus, consider that the majority of illnesses common in children in adults are airborne, and are contracted by breathing air rather than ingesting boogers.
So the next time you see someone picking their nose and eating their boogers, instead of feeling nauseated – perhaps you should commend them on their innate sense to boost their immune system. That being said, you might want to encourage folks to take care of this in private, and teach your children that if they must pick their nose (which come on, admit it, is necessary at some point or another) they should do it in the bathroom!