Advice about Nose Picking

Archived Q&A and Reviews

4-year-old picking his nose and eating it. Yuck!

Nov 2005

Yuck!!! I'm trying to find a solution for this gross behavior. My 4 year old has been doing this for over a year. I've tried the talking it through method without any success and now I'm turning to more drastic measures. Now I'm taking away some of his toys for a few days but that isn't working either. Is this something we just deal with and try to ignore until they figure out that it's inappropriate behavior? anon.

People don't die from eating their boogers. Peer pressure will eventually stop the habit. Its not a battle I would personally choose to fight. I am/was a picker. My dad used to threaten to spank me if I picked. I did it anyway. Considering that he was a picker too, I think it was a bad decision on his part. Let it go. Your child will probably not go to college picking his/her nose in public.
Have you never driven on the freeway? There are normal looking adults who pick and eat too. I look forward to seeing the responses, because it seems to me you have to just find a way to deal with it. It's almost like asking a child to not fart. anon
I will probably sound more anal that usual but here goes..we have very few ''picky rules'' :) in our home in general but eating snot or anything that comes from a nose is not accepted. Both my husband and I find it disgusting and all too accepted among many parents. Since day one we have told our son that it is nasty stuff, carries germs, and those ''monsters'' should be put into a tissue or some form of proper disposal. My son is only three and is really good about it now and I realize that the future could be a little different. I would just really make it unacceptable behavior so you can stop it before it turns into a bigger issue. I know there are many other more serious issues out there but...booger eating is horrible to watch and really a nasty habit. not a ''booger collection'' fan
Well, it's gross to look at and it's not healthy either. Unfortunately I've seen adults do this, too; apparently they got into the habit in childhood and never got over it. I think they don't realize they are doing it. Gross! I have to say it makes me think a lot less of a grown-up when I observe this and I don't want to be around them. I think I even have the same reaction to kids who do this too, although I try to cut them more slack.

When I notice my kid rummaging around in his nose with a finger, I say Don't put your fingers in your nose! You're spreading germs! Use this tissue! And then I walk him into the bathroom to wash his hands. I do it every time, and consistency does work. It's the same for any other politeness/cleanliness issue. Just be consistent. I think the hand-washing reminds him that interrupting play time to wash hands takes longer than interrupting playtime to get a tissue. Make sure there are tissue boxes handy. My son has a friend who picks and eats, and I do the same thing to him when he is at our house. To an adult I would say Here, let me get you a tissue! or not say anything and just hand them a tissue.

Nose-picking 3 year old - make it stop!

Sept 2004

My 3.5 year old has a nasty habit of picking her nose and if that wasn't enough... half the time she eats them [gross!]. We have tried telling her to stop and we've now switched to just saying ''put your hands on your tummy'' and that seems to be a good enough temporary distraction. But now that's she is in preschool we aren't there to discourage the behavior. I feel like I should be replacing the behavior with something we would want her to do, but I'm at a loss. I'd love to hear some advice on this.
Grossed out Mom

My son is prone to this too. My sense is that it's just the latest in disgusting kid things that we'll have to work through. Chances are they'll outgrow this phase. And no, you won't be around at preschool to suggest alternative things to do with her hands, but the other kids will be there, and peer pressure can be a good thing, sometimes. anon
You'll probably get a lot of replies along the lines of, ''If you make a big deal of it, it will only get worse.'' I agree, but I also know how hard it is not to make a big deal of it when it bothers you so much. We've done a couple of things with my daughter that worked. First, we gently move her hand from her nose when we see her picking, and offer her a tissue, without saying anything about it (we also have tissue boxes EVERYWHERE). Second, we do talk at other times about the fact that nose picking is impolite: a lot of people (including us) don't want to see it, so if she wants to do it in private, that's one thing, but she should try not to do it in public. And perhaps the biggest thing is that we promised her a manicure at a nail salon if she could stop putting her fingers in her nose (which would, of course, rub the polish off)! That was an idea we borrowed from someone else and it was the one that really worked. She does revert to nose picking sometimes, but I've been amazed at her willpower for the most part.

One final note that is pretty funny: my sister recently sent me a newspaper article citing evidence that the bacteria in nasal mucous are actually beneficial for the immune system -- so picking and eating may have health benefits! :) Lauren

My now 11-year old daughter is the most refined adolescent on the planet. Immaculate, well-coiffed, scrubbed, etc. Once-upon-a-time, she was a nose picker/boogar eater. We made a few feeble condemning comments and left it alone. Would she qualify for debutantehood? Would she meet and marry a nice boy? Would we be kicked out of the social register? She outgrew the icky habit and now marvels that she ever did such a thing. There are a lot worse, more destructive habits, certainly. Didn't get it from my side

Keeping 2-year-old's nose moist so he doesn't pick

Feb 2004

I'd like advise on how to keep my 2 yr-old son's nose moisturized enough so he doesn't resort to nose-picking. He is not a habitual nose-picker. My son's cousin was a habitual nose-picker and so was his dad when he was a child. I would like to avoid this. I notice that he starts to pick his nose when it's irritating him (Dry stuff inside). He has developed a dislike for me trying to clean it cause it probably hurts. Is there something out there I can moisturise his nostrils with so it doesn't cause such discomfort? EA

Try a plain (non-medicated) saline solution such as ''Little Noses'' or the like. You can use it at drops or spray. It loosens up and moisturizes the nasal passages. Great for when you're stuffed up or feeling too dry (Like in an airplane or after taking an allergy pill). I discoved it for my daughter when she had a cold, now we each have our own bottle to use whenever needed. Lois
You can put a light coat of vaseline in there, but not too much or skin can get boggy leading to irritation.

One-year-old with finger up her nose

Feb 2004

My otherwise charming-in-every-way, 13-month-old daughter has developed the habit of sticking her finger up her nose. She often does this during meals (when her hands are visiting her face), while we are reading books or out in the stroller. Any advice on what, if anything, we should do about this? If the timing is right I gently pull her finger out of her nose and say something like, ''Honey don't stick your finger up your nose.'' She doesn't seem to mind when I remove the finger, but she keeps on doing it... Mom

This is a recently evolved family secret that works wonders for me. Yes, just around 13 or 14 months, my son discovered the holes in his nose as well! But prior to that..... My sister came for a visit and her daughter is two months younger and when her daughter goes for something dirty, my sister says, ''dirty bird!'' I liked that. Well, when my son started sticking his fingers in his nose, I started signing (b/c we use some sign language!) and saying ''dirty bird!'' My son finds it funny and his fingers are redirected away from his nose as he attempts the sign!! Works like a charm..... try it, or find a sign that works for you!
Dirty = Hand on chin, palm down, fingers out, wiggle fingers.
Bird = Index finger and thumb together at lips. Open and close like a bird's beak.
My son (now 17 months) did this for a while a couple of months ago (and occasionally still does, but DEFINITELY not with the regularity that he was doing it). One thing we have noticed about dealing with behavior we don't like in him is that he is always checking us out, to see what we think of his behavior - and we've found that if we react (whether we say ''Please don't do that'' or we laugh, or however we react), he repeats the behavior. In fact, he now knows when we don't like certain behaviors, and it delights him. He repeats the behavior gleefully, testing us. So with the finger-in-nose thing, we completely ignored it. We didn't comment on it; we didn't move his hand; we didn't (tried not to) laugh. He eventually got bored with it and has mostly stopped. Jen

Nose picking in 2-year-old

Sept 2003

Hi, my 2 yr old girl has recently discovered that things come out of her nose, and now can't help picking all the time, when she's playing, meal time, and in the bath. I tried to tell her not to do it, but seems like that gave her even more reason to do so. Any suggestions?

My very gracious and graceful middle-schooler was a nose-picker, boogar-eater, non-pareil, from 2ish to 7ish. Discouraging such behavior does not help nor did the offered kleenexes. The good news is that she outgrew such ''disgusting'' behavior and beseeches me to tell no one; in fact, she is a very fastidious, well-groomed child. I sometimes wonder when I see adult-nosepicker-excavators, in a neighboring car in traffic, if such adults were forbidden the childhood nosepicking behavior. Just a Nosepicking 101--It's only a phase.

Nose Picking 5-year-old

April 2002

Our beautiful 5 year old daughter unfortunately has started picking her nose, rather frequently. Any suggestions to stop her? Incessant scolding is not our approach and in limited quantities does nothing, and rubbing the offending finger in garlic and/or onions also does not work, since she generally loves such things.

As a parent of another nose-picking five year old, my tactic is to gently and quietly ask her if she needs a tissue. I don't think she is even aware that she picks her nose, and I think that this is a non-insulting, non-embarrassing way to make her more aware. Sometimes I just hand her a tissue without saying anything, especially when there is company around.

I think a lot of adults (including me) still pick their noses on occaision, so I guess it is something many of us still need to work on. Maybe some of us have overly sensitive schnozzles. I told my daughter that if she ever sees me picking my nose she is welcome to ask me if I need a tissue. Hasn't happened yet. Member of NPA