"My 3-year-old keeps eating his boogers! I know it’s gross, but is it actually bad for him?"
“Not really,” says Kathleen Berchelmann, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Your child is already ingesting nasal discharge every day when mucus drains from the nasal cavity into his throat. Picking his nose and eating it is not much different.”
But nose-picking can have health consequences for others. “Influenza and other illnesses are spread through nasal secretions. Kids should wash their hands whenever they’ve stuck fingers up their nose,” Dr. Berchelmann notes. It’s also smart to keep nails trimmed so germs don’t linger and spread.
Got a chronic pick-and-eater? Address the cause of the boogies. “A dry nose — whether from allergies or dehydration — leads to nose-picking,” Dr. Berchelmann explains. Prevent dry nasal passages by treating underlying allergies and using saline nose drops or cool-air humidifiers. If your child must pick, encourage him to do so in the privacy of the bathroom — where he can also easily wash his hands after!
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