Turns Out Your Kid Can Pick Their Nose and Eat It, Too
My five-year-old son was a booger eater. Actually, “booger eater” doesn’t even begin to do it justice. More like booger gourmand or booger zealot. He didn’t just casually ingest his bounty. He relished procuring and consuming the contents of his nose more than I enjoy that post-bedtime glass of wine.
It wasn’t the picking that actually bothered me. I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good nose pick, that feeling of satisfaction when you dislodge a stubborn clinger. But the sheer brazenness of his public picking and subsequent dining put me over the edge.
“Why do you like them so much?” I probed. “What do they taste like?”
“Sweet,” he said. “Tastes like ice cream.”
So I did what every parent does in this situation. Googled. From the hundreds of entries I found, apparently everyone wanted to know how to stop kids from picking, but no one knew how. Yet there was still plenty of advice.
In line with the Grimm’s Fairy Tales method of parenting, one suggested telling kids that their fingers would be eaten by monsters if they put them up their nose. But the majority recommended just handing kids a tissue, encouraging them to pick in private, and making them wash their hands.
Then I chanced upon a series of articles suggesting nose-picking and eating could be good for kids. This position was predicated on the “hygiene hypothesis,” a body of substantial research indicating that kids exposed to less bacteria and parasites during childhood have weaker immune systems, making them more susceptible to allergies and/or autoimmune issues.
So, hypothetically, ingesting boogers could introduce germs into our body, stimulating an immune system response that would strengthen it. One of the main proponents of this idea was Dr. Scott Napper, a well-accredited bio-chemist at The University of Saskatchewan. But as of 2013, when the articles were published, there was no research to support it.
My curiosity piqued. I sent Dr. Napper an email asking if he’d completed any research. Worried he’d think I was mocking him, I tried to shore up my credentials both as a “nose-picking sympathizer” and “professional writer.”
As I waited for a response – spoiler alert: it never came – I tried all the tactics to get my son to stop that didn’t ensure his need for therapy later. I ignored the behavior, hoping it would go away. I made a sticker chart where he could earn a star each day he didn’t pick (there were no stars on…