Nose picking

Originally Published: April 5, 1996 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: June 29, 2012
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Dear Alice,

I am an avid nose-picker. Is this bad for my nose?

—Nosepicker

Dear Nosepicker,

Calling all noses: Nose picking is a highly common pastime than most folks (big and small) partake in. In fact, some of you may be picking and clicking right now! Regardless of how you feel about it, picking your nose carries certain health risks:

  • The nose, mouth, throat, and sinuses are fertile territory for the development of infections. Using a finger as the vehicle can act like a space shuttle for germs, delivering bacteria from a door knob or keyboard directly into your body (of course, this mode of transit works in the reverse direction, too!).
  • Cuts in the nasal passage can result from your fingernails, whether they're well-clipped or not. Microscopic lacerations that draw no visible blood can open the door even wider to bacteria and infections.
  • Pimples in and around the nose can occur due to increased oil deposits from the fingers.
  • A nose bleed can occur when pickers dislodge crusts that have formed in the mucous membranes of the nose. For the most vigorous of nose-pickers, there is a slight risk of breaking blood vessels as well.

Moving on from the self-inflicted consequences, here’s a little bit on the secondhand effects of nose picking. Most people (even closeted nose-pickers) do not enjoy watching others picking, sticking, or flicking things that come out of noses. Keep this in mind, all you public pickers out there. To be more considerate, you may want to pick in private.

As always, safer nose-picking is best done with a tissue. But if you must pick without protection: wash up and go easy on the nose.

Alice