Digging for gold: is it really that bad if kids eat their snot?

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

Are you even a child if you don't eat your own snot? It seems to be the snack of choice for many kids.

All you need to do is go to a playground or school and you'll see kids with fingers up their nose everywhere you look. 

It's really gross, but luckily, it's harmless. It's even got a name - mucophagy.

The most dangerous part of obsessive nose picking is nosebleeds or spreading colds and viruses. For example, their snot ends up in your mouth. 

Paediatric ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist Dr David McIntosh said snot, or mucus, was a complex mix of amino acids and sugars.

"Eating snot won't make you sick - if it did we would all be sick, so it's ok to start relaxing and stop worrying," Dr McIntosh said. "Many people may be surprised to learn that we make about 600mls of snot as adults (and less for kids) - every single day. 

"Most of this snot is transported to the back of the nose and then it goes down our throat. It's a perfectly natural thing so in fact, technically speaking, everyone eats snot every single day."

He said it was normal for kids to eat snot and parents needn't be too concerned.

"Kids are inquisitive by nature. They will explore many things by sight, touch, smell, and taste," he said.

Advertisement

"Snot is no different and most kids will probably give snot a try at some stage, but there is nothing to worry about - it's just the same stuff that's already going down the back of their nose.

"The easiest thing a parent can do is realise which battles are worth having. For something like eating snot, be firm but don't get carried away in discouraging them - after all, you are technically consuming more snot than they are."

Generally, most kids will grow out of it or will do it in private, but if it bothers you then there are few strategies to try and discourage them from digging for gold.

Put tissues everywhere.

Maybe if your child has a tissue handy they'll use it? Or maybe they'll just leave tissues everywhere you go and still use their finger to deep deep? But it's worth giving it go.

Address any health issues.

Ask your doctor if there's any way to reduce the amount of snot in their nose. It could be your child is simply trying to clear it out. Allergies and viruses could be leading to a build up of nasal congestion. Over the counter allergy medications, saline drops and cool-air humidifiers all might help to give them some relief.

Make it tricky.

Try popping a bandaid or bandage on their picking finger as it might make it hard for them to do the job. Hopefully, it will act as a distraction and deter them from sticking their finger up their nose.

Give them snacks.

Maybe they're hungry? Instead of eating boogers perhaps you could give them a little snack container for when the hunger hits. You could it fill it with dried fruit and nuts, they have a whole lot more nutritional value than snot.

Talk about it.

As they get older, have a chat to your child about the social norms surrounding snot eating in public places. Give them some strategies to stop picking such as deep breathing or counting to ten in your head. Give them the support and encouragement they need to change their habit.