From Academic Kids

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Nose picking in progress

Nose-picking is the act of extracting mucus or foreign bodies from the nose with a finger. Compulsive nose-picking is known as rhinotillexomania (etymology: Greek, rhino "nose" + tillexis "habit of picking" + mania).

Although a very common habit, it is a mildly taboo subject in most East Asian and Western cultures. Children's literature often makes reference to it, to amuse readers (for example "bogey-flavoured beans" in Harry Potter, or Jacques Charpentreau's poem "De l'Education!"). John Allen Paulos's imaginary novel, Rucker: a life fractal has a section where "proboscis probing is discussed at length."

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"You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose." Sometimes you can.

Mucophagy, the consumption of the mucus thus extracted, while common in some cultures, is a much greater taboo. So much so, that even those who engage in the practice generally find it disgusting when done by someone else in their presence, much like flatulence.

Nose-picking may carry a number of medical risks, including causing nasal infections and nosebleeds. Most authorities recommend using a tissue.

However, at least one well-known doctor sees nose-picking and mucophagy as beneficial [1] ( He states that not only is the finger capable of reaching parts of the nose that a handkerchief or tissue is unable to, thus keeping the nose cleaner, but that eating the bacteria-rich dried mucus offers a boost to the immune system, and is analogous to immunization.

Due to the special nature of the blood supply to the nose and surrounding area, it is possible for retrograde infections from the nasal area to spread to the brain, although this scenario is unlikely to arise from nose-picking. For this reason, the area from the corners of the mouth to the bridge of the nose, including the nose and maxilla, is known to doctors as the "danger triangle of the face".

See also


Popular sayings and jokes reveal social attitudes about nose-picking:

  • "You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose."
  • "How did you know I went to Yale?" "I noticed your class ring when you picked your nose."
  • "I know he picks his nose. I felt under his furniture." Van Lane Ferguson, We Bark at Midnight (1962)
  • "If I had a million boogers, I'd still pick you."


  • James W. Jefferson and Trent D. Thompson. Rhinotillexomania: Psychiatric Disorder or Habit?; The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Volume 56, Number 2, February 1995. This study won an Ig Nobel Prize in 2001.

External links

de:Nasebohren nl:Neuspeuteren


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