Stuff That Grosses Out Kids (You Too?): Boogers

The body makes a lot of stuff like blood, bone, tissue and new members of the human race. Some of the stuff it makes every day you might find a bit gross but… interesting. One example is mucus that dries in our noses… commonly called “boogers.”

We can learn a little about them, just for fun, or to have a good answer for when the kids ask — because they will.

Boogers: Why?!

You’ve probably heard the joke: What’s the difference between boogers and broccoli? Kids don’t eat broccoli. Gross. But everyone has boogers. Everyone doesn’t eat them, though.

Here’s why you have them.

They’re Dust Traps and Moisturizers

Boogers are part of a system that keeps your nose, throat, trachea (often called the windpipe) and lungs moist and free of dust and other particles. The system catches things like mold, bacteria and viruses as it humidifies the air that passes by.

Mucus is the trap and boogers are what’s left when the mucus and the tiny particles it has trapped dry as you breathe. Whether they’re gooey or crusty depends on how long they’ve been hanging around in your nose.

What’s Mucus For?

Mucus is also a lubricant. In many places of the body, it’s slippery to reduce friction and protect delicate surfaces. It protects the inside of the mouth, gut and reproductive tract. When hard objects like food pass through the mouth and throat, mucus stops them from scratching your body.

A thicker mucus also protects the stomach tissues by blocking chemicals like digestive acid. Without mucus, your natural stomach acid might eat through your own stomach walls.

Then there’s our favorite — boogers. They’re nasal mucus traps for viruses, dust, dirt and germs. Our body wraps them in sticky, hard or stringy little packages for you to get rid of, or rinses them away in a river of flowing snot.

Your body can make over a quart of mucus a day. It usually produces less than that and only a little gets trapped in the nose.

What Should You Do with Boogers?

Remove them with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash. Most people use a finger, at least now and then. According to Snot My Fault in Psychology Today, between 80 and 96 percent of people admit they’ve picked boogers from their noses. But whatever you use for booger removal, consider doing it in private because others don’t like to see it.

Only 5-8 percent of people admit to having ever eaten them. That’s not dangerous, as gross as it sounds. Boogers are mostly water and protein with a little dust thrown in. The trapped germs are killed in the stomach. So it’s safe to eat them. But other people won’t think kindly of you!

Meet the Author

Kenneth A. Zaremski, DO is a doctor of osteopathy at Aurora BayCare Health Center in Green Bay, WI.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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