Combat nose picking: A useful guide for parents

We’ve all done it. Whether in the privacy of our home or in public, it is the most common and innocuous personal habit, and yet, the most frowned upon. What are we talking about? Nose picking, of course.

nose picking in kids Nose picking in kids: Does your kid have a nose picking habit?

We’ve all done it. Whether in the privacy of our home or in public, it is the most common and innocuous personal habit, and yet, the most frowned upon. What are we talking about? Nose picking, of course.

The sight of boogers and images of persons with their fingers up their noses are guaranteed to produce an immediate cringe. And any public act of nose picking usually evokes loud protests and deep disgust from society at large.

Yet this unsightly behaviour is especially prevalent in young children and a bane to parents across the board. The good news is that nose picking starts out as a natural and instinctual behaviour that is usually discontinued by adulthood. Here are some common situations for children to nose pick.

Evolving stages of nose picking

1. Curiosity – Nose picking starts at an early age due to the hands-to-face movement. Babies explore the landscape of their faces and are often fascinated by the crevices they find. This is also the stage when babies are most likely to insert small objects into their mouth or noses.

2. Allergies – Excessive mucus caused by allergies is the next culprit in encouraging nose picking. The sensation of having something stuck up your nose is both uncomfortable and annoying as it may cause breathing difficulties, as in a stuffy nose.

3. Itchiness or discomfort – dryness in the air atmosphere caused by air-conditioning or excessive heating may also lead to crust forming in the nasal passages. A humidifier in this case may alleviate the symptoms.

4. Boredom or to relieve stress – Children between 3 to 7 years have a tendency to adopt unconscious habits like nail biting, teeth grinding, hair twisting or nose picking. These behaviours form part of their defence mechanisms against social stresses or to mitigate the humdrum of activities such as television watching and waiting in line.

5. Parental reaction – For older children who are aware of society’s sentiments towards nose picking, it is a means to either attract the parent’s attention (ages 5 to 9) or a retaliation tactic to irritate their parents (ages 7 to 10).

Motivation NOT to nose pick…

Obsessive nose picking (also known as rhinotillexomania) can lead to nose bleeding. Nasal mucus is the sticky lubricant that coats the inner part of the nose to trap dust and dirt that might be in the air. Excessive nose picking can therefore damage the linings of your nose, thus weakening the defence of your immune system.

Moreover, all unsuccessful invasions of bacteria are accumulated into the lump of mucus - a powerful germ-infested nation. When transferred to our hands, it is an extremely potent instrument in making us ill.

Some of the more adventurous may contest this fact by eating their own boogers, given the widely publicised approval of Prof Dr Friedrich Bischinger, a top Austrian lung specialist.

"'Medically it makes great sense and is a perfectly natural thing to do. In terms of the immune system the nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria is collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine...” he said.

nose picking in kids Nose picking in kids: How to stop the habit

What to do about nose picking?

While there are no MBAs in booger management or snot control, here are some things parents can do to discourage this anti-social habit:

1. Address his allergies.
2. Keep her hydrated and in a moist atmosphere.
3. Keep little hands busy.
4. Encourage proper hygiene by washing hands after a digging expedition.
5. Teach proper evacuation techniques such as blowing their nose into a tissue.

How to break the habit of nose picking?

In the event that your child has adopted the habit, keep calm and avoid making a big issue out of nose-picking. First, try to address the external factors causing the crusting of mucus, like allergies or the air.

Whenever, you catch your child digging in, point out that people do not like to see this and that such things should be done in the privacy of the home or toilet.

Explain to the child why it is a socially unacceptable behaviour and allow him the liberty to deal with this habit in a “grown up” manner. Remember to always focus your attention on the child and not the habit. The habit is bad, not the child.

Reiterate how the spread of germs could deter his or her social activities and all the fun that they will miss out as a result of being sick.

If you can identify times and places when your child is particularly likely to pick — while watching television, for example, or in the car — try giving her a substitute (a rubber ball to squeeze, a fuzzy fake rabbit's foot to stroke, or finger puppets to play with). Teaching her to blow her nose may also help.

As with the teaching of most social graces, you’ll probably have to remind the child several times before it registers. If nothing works, the embarrassment and disgust of their peers will usually do the trick.