My four year old son eats his boogers. I think most kids do. But it is not socially acceptable.

I asked him to stop and he asked me why - and told me that he liked how they taste. So I told him that I did not like to watch it and many people did not want to see him do it, and that he should at least do it in private until one day, most likely, he will grow out of it.

I presume that, like me, most kids do this and grow out of it. Is this accurate? Is there a more rational, healthy (in terms of not shameing) approach to this issue?

Although this question is similar to https://parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/212/how-do-i-get-my-child-to-stop-picking-his-nose, it does not start with the presumption that the act itself is 'bad'.

  • 1
    If it was a problem, humanity would have been destroyed thousands of years ago. Also, if you have ever watched people stuck in rush hour traffic, you will notice that no, people don't grow out of it. :)
    – DA01
    Feb 12, 2014 at 18:23

3 Answers 3


Current studies actually show that nose-picking has positive health effects, by introducing weakened pathogens in a way that the immune system can develop a response without getting sick.



The health factor is that mucus (a.k.a. boogers) is a primary vector for many infectious diseases, including the ever-popular colds and flus.

Using your fingers to remove mucus means that your fingers are then coated in contagious pathogens ("germs").

You use your fingers to touch everything from food to toys, and also for direct person-to-person contact like hand-shaking.

Everything you touch then potentially carries those germs, and transfers them to the next person to touch them.

By eating them, he's merely adding his own saliva (another primary vector) to the mix.

So there absolutely is a health issue involved.

Using a tissue helps reduce contact with his fingers. At the very least, you should tell him that he needs to wash his hands each and every time he does this, immediately after. Either it will teach him rigorous hygiene habits, or the hassle of having to wash his hands so frequently may teach him to use a tissue :P

  • Is there any evidence for negative health effects? Anything that would be more dangerous than breathing air through the mouth instead of filtering it with your nose?
    – Abe
    Feb 12, 2014 at 7:23
  • Im not sure I understand your comment. What does breathing through your nose or mouth have to do with anything? Are you asking if there is any evidence that germs can be transmitted through mucus or touch?
    – user420
    Feb 12, 2014 at 11:51
  • I believe the question is after picking your nose with your finger, is there a difference among eating it, flicking it away into the general environment, flicking it into a garbage can, or wiping it off on a Kleenex? Your answer speaks primarily to picking, not to what happens next.
    – Chrys
    Feb 12, 2014 at 17:43
  • 1
    @Chrys Hrm, I hadn't considered that. The question cites lack of being "socially acceptable" as the primary concern, and I assumed that started with the picking (i.e. I didn't consider picking to be okay, and only eating to be taboo). I also read into the question that the OP was looking for specific health concerns to bring up with the express intent of convincing the child to stop, without "shaming" them. If I that wasn't the intent, then my answer is off base, but perhaps the question could use some clarification.
    – user420
    Feb 12, 2014 at 17:56
  • @beofett your answer is super, and would be very convincing if it was relayed to a rational, mature, but perhaps "unrefined" adult (to politely describe such a person that engages in nose-picking and snot-sampling), but the OP needs to convince a 4 year old - hardly rational or mature. I think by "healthy" the OP meant "non- abusive," or emotionally damaging. The second part of your answer where you suggest hand washing is very constructive advice, because it works to extinguish the behavior, or at least reduce the germ spreading in the meantime.
    – Jax
    Feb 13, 2014 at 0:13

Why not try to eliminate the supply? If there are no boogers to eat, there is no problem right? You could try using saline spray/drops and having him blow his nose frequently to get rid of the mucous. If he's got the dry type try a humidifier. Eventually, if there's nothing up there to eat, he'll stop digging.

Another suggestion is to ignore it altogether. I know it's gross and embarrassing but sometimes the more you try to stop a behavior the more you enforce it.

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