What is nose picking?
Nose picking is quite similar to other repetitive habits like pimple popping or nail biting. Even though these behaviors are not clinically advisable, the chances of triggering a serious complication is relatively low.
One may end up causing trauma to the fragile mucosa lining, if he/she has long fingernails or was a bit too rough while nose picking. A simple scratch to the surface of the nose can result in nosebleeds or act as a starting point for an infection. Scratching the inner lining of the nose induces scabbing that then may enable bacteria from the nasal skin to accumulate there. When a scab builds in the nose, it becomes enticing for one to pick the scab. This initiates a vicious cycle of interpolating more bacteria or viruses into the nose and eliminating more mucosa. Each and every time one picks that scab off, he/she pulls away a tiny bit of the lining of the nose.
Recurrent scrapes or trauma could in due time begin to affect the shape of one’s nose. It can also give rise to scar tissue formation or nasal passage obstruction. In rare circumstances, chronic nose picking can create a perforation of the nasal septum also referred to as a hole in the nostril.
Dangers of excessive nose picking may look like frequent nosebleeds or recurring infections.
Why does one pick his/her nose?
Why one tends to pick his/her nose presumably varies from person to person. Some of the reasons for nose picking can be:
- Boogers – A booger is defined as dried nasal mucus that aids in gathering around pollen, dust, and other wastes inside the nostrils. They are prone to blocking the nasal passages. Besides affecting one’s breathing, boogers may also feel uncomfortable or irritating. As a consequence, one may use his/her fingers to get rid of the boogers and free the nasal passages.
- Nasal conditions – Nasal conditions like allergies and upper respiratory infections (URIs) can intensify the levels of nasal mucus, consequently increasing the production of boogers. Nose picking can cause the transmission of these infections on to the fingers. Eventually these infections can find their way to one’s mouth and body.
- Nasal structure – Nasal structural irregularities such as a deviated septum can bring about problems that hikes the possibilities of nose picking. On rare occasions, if the illness causing germ was on one’s fingers prior to nose picking, he/she may end up spreading those into the nose.
- Compulsion – For some, nose picking is a nervous habit. While for others, it may turn out to be a compulsive behavior. The medical term used for compulsive nose picking is rhinotillexomania. It is a form of body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB). The phrase BFRB calls attention to a group of obsessive self-grooming behaviors that can trigger unintended damage to one’s body. For one suffering with this condition, he/she may exhibit nose picking when feeling stressed or anxious.
In order to have good nasal health, it is crucial for one to resist the urge of nose picking.
What are the dangers of nose picking?
In spite of the fact that nose picking is usually harmless, there is still some amount of risk involved in it. The predominant challenges associated with nose picking are:
- Introducing viruses, bacteria, and other contaminants into the nostril
- Disseminating viruses and bacteria from the nose into the surroundings
- Harming the tissues and structures inside the nose
- Causing nosebleeds
What are the complications related to nose picking?
Nose picking may not be life threatening, still it can cause complications for one who is ill or has a weaker immune system. Some of the complications related to nose picking can be summed up as:
Fingernails have a tendency to cause tiny cuts in one’s nasal tissue. Through these openings, possibly dangerous bacteria or viruses can find their way inside the nostril and trigger infection.
Mucus traps bacteria, viruses and dust that one breathes in daily. One could share these germs if he/she picks their nose. Nose pickers are known to spread the bacterium responsible for a significant amount of pneumonia.
Repeated nose picking can cause severe damage to the nasal cavity. According to a study, people with compulsive nose picking habits are known to experience inflammation and swelling of the nasal tissue. In due course of time, this may narrow the openings of the nostrils.
Scratching and digging in the nose may break or rupture sensitive blood vessels. This can give rise to nosebleeds.
The term nasal vestibulitis is defined as the inflammation at the opening and front part of the nasal cavity. It is generally caused by minor infection with staphylococcus. This condition leads to sores that can form painful scabs.
The septum is made up of bone and cartilage that divides the left and right nostrils. Frequent nose picking may harm the nasal septum and even cause a hole.
How to prevent nose picking?
To get over the habit of nose picking, one can try out the following alternative techniques:
- Use a saline spray – If one’s nasal passages are dry due to dehumidified air, he/she can try using a saline nasal spray. A saline nasal spray will aid in restoring moisture, as well as preventing dry snot and boogers.
- Practice saline rinse – During the times of seasonal allergies, a saline nasal rinse is a healthy way to keep one’s nasal passages and sinus cavities clean. The saline rinse will help in washing away any pollen or allergens that might bother one’s nasal passages.
- Treat the basic cause of nasal mucus – The production of nasal mucus may increase due to dusty environments, allergens, low humidity, smoke or dander. After identifying the triggers, one can try to reduce or eliminate it. This may help in stopping the irritation or sensitivity and also lessen the production of boogers.
- Identify an alternative stress reliever – Chronic anxiety or stress may be relieved temporarily by nose picking. But it would be safe to find a more productive stress reliever. One can try out alternative stress relievers like listening to music, practicing deep breathing, using a stress ball or playing a handheld game.
How to stop children from nose picking?
Children usually have the infamous habit of nose picking. To stop them from nose picking, the following methods can be adopted:
- Point out the behavior – Most of the time, children pick their nose out of habit or boredom. They don’t even realize how their nasal cavity is getting affected because of nose picking. In such a situation, the parents can politely try to draw their attention towards this behavior.
- Present an alternative – To break free from this habit of nose picking, parents can try to hand the children some tissue as an alternative. Then the parents can take them to wash their hands immediately to maintain hygiene.
- Explain the harms of nose picking – Parents can try explaining to their children why they should avoid putting fingers inside the nose. So that the children can have a clear idea of dangers nose picking can cause to them and others.
- Repeat – To change the behavior of nose picking, keep politely reminding your children about it. Also suggest alternatives so that they can overcome the habit of nose picking in future.