A post on The Soccer Mum Blog has been informing parents that it’s probably OK for kids to pick their noses. And then eat their boogers. Eating boogers, the post says, is actually good for kids because nose-picking/booger-eating leads to happier, healthier lives.
So maybe they’re happier because they’re allowed to run amok, poking and prodding as they see fit. But healthier? This must be the ramblings of a mum desperate to justify her kid’s bad habit, I thought. But upon further digging (pun intended), there are, apparently, scientists who back the theory that booger consumption is a natural way to build up one’s immune system.
A biochemist and professor in Canada is widely quoted in the media, including this CBC News article, in support of this disgusting habit:
“By consuming those pathogens caught within the mucus, could that be a way to teach your immune system about what it’s surrounded with?” is the hypothesis Scott Napper posed to his students.
Napper noted that snot has a sugary taste and that may be a signal to the body to consume it and derive information for the immune system.
The idea is that exposing our bodies to the germs trapped within our nose mucus builds up the body’s immune system, acting as a sort of vaccination against them. Of course, we should consider that kids are also sticking potentially germy fingers into their mouths in the process, so the immune system has a lot to contend with here.
One dad set out on a deep investigative journey to determine whether any actual studies have been conducted to prove this theory and came up mostly empty-handed. He wrote for Fatherly that one doctor — Gary Freed, director of the Division of General Pediatrics at the University of Michigan School of Public Health — did (sort of) give the go-ahead, though:
Bottom line: It is safe. However, kids who pick their noses more than others are at higher risk of nosebleeds.
Initially, I wanted to embrace this. I want to give kids the freedom to pick and choose as they please. But I keep thinking about the “sweet, almost sugary” booger flavour descriptor I read and it makes me shudder. I’m of the opinion that kids should build their immunity the old-fashioned way: By coughing and sneezing all over their classmates.
But hey, I’m no expert so I, too, reached out to an actual doctor for input. Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, chief of allergy and immunology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said, “There is no direct data, but generally speaking, we think exposure to bacteria is good for kids.”
Another pediatrician we asked (who happens to be Michelle Woo’s pediatrician and asked that we not use her name) says, “I do believe in the ‘hygiene hypothesis,’ which says that kids who are exposed to different environmental factors — dirt, bacteria, viruses, fungus — when they’re young, the more robust their immune systems will be when they get older. I wouldn’t encourage a kid to eat their boogers, or roll in bacteria, but I don’t think we shield them in bubble.”
Conclusion: I thought this was wack, but it might be a hack.