Toddlers have this uncanny habit of picking their nose (usually in front of other people). And the absolute worse is when they actually hold up the “booger” they’ve found while they’ve been exploring their nasal passages! And while they usually know they shouldn’t, we know it can be difficult to get them to stop.
So, what’s a mom to do? Here’s some handy advice from the experts.
Why do kids pick their nose?
Actually, there are a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s to relieve the uncomfortable sensation that there’s something up their nose. Other times it’s a nervous habit or something they do when they’re bored or curious. Then there are some kids who don’t pick their nose on purpose – it’s a learned habit that they’re doing unconsciously.
Is it really a bad thing to do?
According to Dr Jeffrey Koempel, chief of pediatric otolarngology at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the biggest problem with kids picking their nose is the social stigma associated with it – “it just doesn’t look good to be caught with your finger up your nose.”
He says some of the health issues is mainly the potential to cause bleeding in the nose, and introducing bacteria into the nose with the finger.
Why does snot exist
The reason there’s snot or “boogers” in your child’s nose is because it helps keep the nasal passages “moisturised” and prevents germs from being passed into the lungs when he breathes.
Snot generally contains particles of germs, dust, pollen and bacteria. When your child picks his nose, he irritates the inner lining which can lead to bleeding and scabbing in their nose. Bacteria also gets on to his finger or under his fingernails, which can pass germs to others and make them sick.
What to do if your kid picks his nose
Experts advise that you shouldn’t shout at your child if you catch him with his finger up his nose. Instead, you tell him to use a tissue each time you see him do it. Explain that it’s rude and something “big boys and girls” don’t do.
Like addressing any bad habit, they say it’s all about being consistent and giving positive reinforcement.
Here are some more tips:
- Keep your child’s finger nails short.
- Tell your child to wash his hands each time you catch him pick his nose.
- If you can see there’s something bothering him “up there”, ask him to gently blow his nose on a tissue instead.
- When you’re in public, you create a “code word” with your child that you say to alert him to stop picking his nose.
- Never put hot sauce or chilli powder on his finger as this can cause intense burning pain and irritation in the nose.
- Keep his nose moist by putting saline nasal drops in his nose or a humidifier in your house.
- Distract him – encourage him to do something for which you know he’ll have to use his hands, for example, draw a picture, build a fort, etc.
- You can also try getting him to wear gloves when you’re at home (easier in winter, we know, so you’ll need to turn this into some kind of game until he gets out the habit). This will make it more difficult for him to get up there, because he has to take off the glove to get his finger up his nose.
Content editor and writer on Living & Loving, Sonya has over 25 years experience in the media industry. She edited Living & Loving magazine for six-and-a-half years and is the former editor of Longevity magazine. She’s won numerous media industry awards and is passionate about the health and wellbeing of moms and children.
Outside of work, she enjoys trying out recipes, reading crime mysteries and thrillers, practicing yoga, and exploring new destinations.
Learn more about Sonya Naudé.