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Why do kids eat boogers? How to stop this nasty behavior

Kids are adorable. Kids are beautiful. Kids are gross. The noises and fluids that come out of a kid can get pretty disgusting. One of the most cringe-worthy things kids do is eat their boogers. Every child does it. You may not remember it, but if you asked your parents, they’ll say they caught you a time or two trying your own nose poop.

Why do kids eat boogers in the first place? Well, children are weird and will try anything. You always encourage your child to try new things and trying the taste of their boogers is on that list. But if that doesn’t sound appealing, let’s get your child’s nose-picking (and snacking) under control.

Young girl smiling while picking her nose.

Why do kids eat boogers?

They see other kids doing it

Monkey see, monkey do. Kids will mimic anything they see around them. If they notice a sibling or classmate picking his nose and eating it, they will be more likely to try it themselves. They are curious and want to know why others are doing it.

They like the salty taste

Kids will pick boogers as long as kids have fingers and a nose. But what makes kids think picking and eating their boogers is the best thing to do? Kids can’t resist that salty taste. While adults might like to grab a bag of chips when they want a salty snack, kids dig a little deeper.

They feel anxious

Your child could also be feeling anxious about something. If you notice your child nervous in certain settings, she could be coping by picking her nose and eating the boogers. Most of us have a weird, nervous tick. This one is your child’s.

How you can help them stop it

Talk to them

A conversation needs to happen first. Ask your child why he eats his boogers. Ask him why he feels the need to pick his nose in the first place. Let your child tell you why he got started so you both can figure out to stop it.

Teach them why it’s not good to do

Dr. Koempel, a pediatric otolaryngologist states, “There are some potential health issues associated with nose-picking, mainly the potential for causing bloody noses and introducing bacteria into the nose.”

If your children are a bit older and can understand, get into more detail about why they should stop eating their boogers. Talk to them about disease, germs, and bacteria. Let them know when they pick and don’t wash their hands they are spreading viruses around the house that can make the rest of the family sick.

Let them know about the physical downside

Not only will they spread their germs around, but the constant picking can cause painful sores in their nose. Talk to your child about picking leading to sores which can lead to infection.

Redirect the child’s nerves

You are going to have to find another way for your kid to release that nervous or anxious energy. Those bubble sensory toys are amazing. They keep little fingers busy and out of their nose. Sometimes all it takes is a little redirection of their energy.

A kid in his mother's lap picking his nose.

What to do to curb their picking

To stop them from eating the boogers, you need to get them to stop picking in the first place. There are a few things to try when speaking to your child isn’t doing the trick.

Bandage up their finger

If you had chickenpox and couldn’t stop scratching, your hands were wrapped in oven mitts. The same concept applies here. Put bandages over the fingers your kid prefers to use to pick.

Saline is your friend

Keep saline solution around. When you see your child go to dig, apply some in the nostril. Keep the nostril wet to keep the buildup of mucus down so boogers don’t form.

Teach your kid to blow their nose

Another reason why your kid might be picking their nose is they just don’t like the feel of boogers in there. As adults, we know to grab a tissue and blow. But kids might not get that correlation.

Always have tissues on hand

Make sure you always have tissues. In your bag, in the car, in your kid’s backpack, and in the house. Even infants can mimic blowing a nose. A child can blow their nose properly. You might have to sound like a parrot and repeat “blow your nose” over and over again but they should get the hint eventually. You will also want them to take care of any boogers that your kid has already picked but you caught before they ate.

A mother with her kid who is picking his nose.

Make sure it’s not a nasal condition

If none of this works, or your child still is bothered by their nose, they could have an illness, allergy, or condition that is causing them to want to pick. You should talk to their pediatrician if nothing is working. Dr. Gellnar, a pediatric physician says, “If the nose-picking starts causing a lot of problems, such as nosebleeds or skin infections, talk to your pediatrician about things you can do.”

Whether it’s a nervous habit or something for your child to do because she is bored, nose picking is something every parent is going to have to deal with at some point. When they pick, they get curious and eat. It doesn’t mean your child is bad or wrong, but you’ll need to keep an eye on it.

While the majority of kids give up and grow out of it, some kids develop a habit of saving their boogers for dessert. We hope with these tips help your child stop their probing so that they aren’t tempted to put that finger in their mouth.

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