Nose-picking is the act of extracting
The nasal mucosa lines the nasal cavity. It is part of the respiratory mucosa, the mucous membrane lining the respiratory tract. The nasal mucosa is intimately adherent to the periosteum or perichondrium of the nasal conchae. It is continuous ...
with one's finger (rhinotillexis) and may include the subsequent ingestion of the extracted mucus
In Western cultures, this act is generally considered to be social deviant; parents and pediatricians have historically tried to prevent development of the habit and attempt to break it if already established. Mucophagy is a source of mockery and entertainment in the media.
Nose-picking is an extremely widespread habit: some surveys indicate that it is almost universal, with people picking their nose on average about four times a day.
[ Reviewed in:
A 1995 study of nose-picking, requesting information from 1,000 randomly selected adults from Wisconsin USA gathered 254 responses. It defined nose-picking as "the insertion of a finger (or other object) into the nose with the intention of removing dried nasal secretions". Of those who responded, 91% said they were current nose-pickers (but only 75% of these believed everyone did it), and two respondents claimed to spend between 15 and 30 minutes and between one and two hours a day picking their noses.
A mucous membrane or mucosa is a membrane that lines various cavities in the body of an organism and covers the surface of internal organs. It consists of one or more layers of epithelial cells overlying a layer of loose connective tissue. It is ...
s in the
The nasal cavity is a large, air-filled space above and behind the nose in the middle of the face. The nasal septum divides the cavity into two cavities, also known as fossae. Each cavity is the continuation of one of the two nostrils. The nasal ...
constantly produce a wet mucus that removes dust and
Biology is the scientific study of life. It is a natural science with a broad scope but has several unifying themes that tie it together as a single, coherent field. For instance, all organisms are made up of cells that process ...
s from the air flowing through the cavity. For the most part, the
The cilium, plural cilia (), is a membrane-bound organelle found on most types of eukaryotic cell, and certain microorganisms known as ciliates. Cilia are absent in bacteria and archaea. The cilium has the shape of a slender threadlike pro ...
that also line the cavity work to move the mucus toward the throat, where it can be swallowed. However, not all the mucus stays fluid enough to be moved by the cilia. The closer the mucus is to the nostril opening, the more moisture it loses to the outside air, and the more likely it is to dry out and become stuck. Once dried, the mucus typically causes a sensation of irritation that leads to the compulsion to dislodge the
Itch (also known as pruritus) is a sensation that causes the desire or reflex to scratch. Itch has resisted many attempts to be classified as any one type of sensory experience. Itch has many similarities to pain, and while both are unpleasant ...
by picking. Other reasons to remove excess dried mucus include impaired breathing through the nose and a concern that it may be visible to others in the nostril openings.
In some cultures, nose-picking is considered a private act akin to defecation, urination, flatulence, burping, or masturbation.
Mucophagy (literally "mucus feeding") is defined as the act of feeding on mucus of fishes or invertebrates. Also, it may refer to consumption of mucus or dried mucus in primates.
There are mucophagous parasite
Parasitism is a close r ...
, which is eating the extracted mucus
, may be considered more taboo, and is sometimes portrayed in comedies.
When nose picking becomes a
body-focused repetitive behavior
Body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) is an umbrella name for impulse control behaviors involving compulsively damaging one's physical appearance or causing physical injury.
Body-focused repetitive behavior disorders (BFRBDs) in ICD-11 is in ...
Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental and behavioral disorder in which an individual has intrusive thoughts and/or feels the need to perform certain routines repeatedly to the extent where it induces distress or impairs gener ...
it is known as rhinotillexomania.
[AAMFT Consumer Update – Hair Pulling, Skin Picking and Biting: Body-Focused Repetitive Disorders](_blank)
, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
Most cases do not meet this pathological threshold.
[ When it does, however, treatments similar to other BFRBs can be employed, such as habit reversal training and decoupling.
Medical risks and benefits
The environment of the nose and the dried secretions removed contain many micro-organisms. When a person is contagious with a cold, flu or other virus, it is important that hands or other objects used to remove mucus are washed promptly because there is risk of introducing micro-organisms to other parts of the body or other people since it is a norm to shake hands in many societies.
Picking one's nose with dirty fingers or fingernails may increase risks of infection that may include an increase in the diversity of nose flora (and thus infection or illness), or occasional
A nosebleed, also known as epistaxis, is bleeding from the nose. Blood can flow down into the stomach, and cause nausea and vomiting. In more severe cases, blood may come out of both nostrils. Rarely, bleeding may be so significant that low ...s. One case of rhinotillexomania resulted in perforation of the nasal septum
The nasal septum () separates the left and right airways of the nasal cavity, dividing the two nostrils.
It is depressed by the depressor septi nasi muscle.
The fleshy external end of the nasal septum is called the columella or co ... and self-induced ethmoidectomy. In children, the most common complication related to nose picking is epistaxis
A nosebleed, also known as epistaxis, is bleeding from the nose. Blood can flow down into the stomach, and cause nausea and vomiting. In more severe cases, blood may come out of both nostrils. Rarely, bleeding may be so significant that low bl ... (nosebleed). Infections or perforation of the nasal septum are uncommon, but can occur. Nose picking, however, should not affect the sense of smell
The sense of smell, or olfaction, is the special sense through which smells (or odors) are perceived. The sense of smell has many functions, including detecting desirable foods, hazards, and pheromones, and plays a role in taste.
In humans, i ..., as the nasal cavity
The nasal cavity is a large, air-filled space above and behind the nose in the middle of the face. The nasal septum divides the cavity into two cavities, also known as fossae. Each cavity is the continuation of one of the two nostrils. The nasal ... where the olfactory nerve
The olfactory nerve, also known as the first cranial nerve, cranial nerve I, or simply CN I, is a cranial nerve that contains sensory nerve fibers relating to the sense of smell.
The afferent nerve fibers of the olfactory receptor neurons tr ...s are located is too high up to reach.
Some scientists claim that mucophagy provides benefits for the human body. Friedrich Bischinger, an Austrian doctor specializing in lung
The lungs are the primary organs of the respiratory system in humans and most other animals, including some snails and a small number of fish. In mammals and most other vertebrates, two lungs are located near the backbone on either side ...s, advocates using fingers to pick nasal mucus and then ingesting it, stating that people who do so get "a natural boost to their immune system". The mucus contains a "cocktail of antiseptic enzymes that kill or weaken many of the bacteria that become entangled in it", so reintroducing the "crippled" microorganisms "may afford the immune system an opportunity to produce antibodies
An antibody (Ab), also known as an immunoglobulin (Ig), is a large, Y-shaped protein used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects such as pathogenic bacteria and viruses. The antibody recognizes a unique molecule of th ... in relative safety". However, other scientists argue that,"because boogers are made from the same ingredients as the mucus we swallow every day, ... eating boogers doesn’t matter much to your immune system".
* Allergic salute (wiping of the nose with the hand)
* Eating mucus
* Nasal irrigation
* Neti (Hatha Yoga)
Nose-blowing is the act of expelling nasal mucus by exhaling forcefully through the nose. This is usually done into a facial tissue or handkerchief, facial tissues being more hygienic as they are disposed of after each use while handkerchiefs ar ...
BBC home: The Truth About Nose-picking
Toddlers and Nose Picking
* For an elaborate spoof, se
"Nose-picking in the Pongidae and Its Implication for Human Evolution"
said to be from the ''American Journal of Nasal Anatomy'', (1987)
The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors
Body-focused repetitive behavior
Habit and impulse disorders