I don’t know about you, but I have a distinct memory of the point in my childhood where I consciously considered eating my boogers.
I couldn’t tell you if I ate them when I was a baby (I probably did, what baby doesn’t?) But I remember being a very small child and internally debating the issue. Of course, the authoritative adults in my life strongly discouraged the behavior.
Sure, it may be gross to see kids sticking their fingers up their noses and then directly into their mouths, but is it really that big of a deal? Turns out, it’s snot! (See what I did there? 😉)
In fact, could it even be healthy for kids to eat boogers?
What are Boogers, Really?
Boogers really are just clusters of mucus that gather the debris that would otherwise flow down into our lungs. Creating boogers is essentially one of the ways our body protects the respiratory system and keeps us breathing healthily and happily.
What we call ‘boogers’ is when this mucus gets pushed to the front of the nose and hardens. This is a natural process because, after all, that mucus has gotta go somewhere, doesn’t it? The mucus that doesn’t make it to the front of your nose ends up slipping down your throat. So, if you think about it, you’re already eating your boogers anyway. So could it really be so bad for kids to eat them off their fingers?
While picking their nose and eating what comes out may not be a habit you want your kids to keep, rest assured, doing so could actually be beneficial for them!
Why it’s Beneficial for Kids to Eat Boogers
The main reason kids find it so interesting – and daresay, appealing – to eat their boogers is actually the flavor. Scott Napper, a professor in biochemistry at the University of Saskatchewan explained that boogers actually taste sweet, almost sugary as if they were little candies. From a kid’s perspective, who wouldn’t be down for a personal candy dispenser on their face? (1)
As for why boogers can be beneficial for your body, have you ever heard how dirt is good for your immune system? The concept applies here.
Boogers are a collection of dust, dirt, bacteria, etc. Ingesting these substances through something as simple as mucus (or boogers) can help your body strengthen its immunity to all sorts of illnesses. Being exposed to different substances and bacteria helps your body get introduced to a number of things without actually contracting anything. It’s reasons like this that researchers believe mucus is meant to be ingested. Lung specialist Professor Friedrich Bischinger says that ingesting your boogers or mucus essentially works “just like medicine” in this way. (1, 2)
The stronger a person’s immune system can get when they’re a kid, the stronger it will be when they are an adult. Everyone could use all the help they could get to stay healthy, I’d say!
So What, I Should Just Let My Kid Pick Their Nose?
No, not necessarily. As I said, it’s not a habit that you want kids to keep up. The reason the nose caught the dirt in the first place is that it was trying to keep it out of the body. For public and personal health reasons, it’s highly beneficial and recommended to help kids learn to use tissues as they get older. The point is, if you catch your kid sticking their boogers in their mouth every so often, you don’t have to worry about it hurting them.