Why do some people pick their noses?

Introduction: The Curious Case of Nose Picking

Nose picking is a habit that many people find embarrassing and try to hide from others. However, it is a common phenomenon that affects people of all ages and backgrounds, despite being considered socially taboo. It is estimated that approximately 91% of people engage in nose picking, with some doing it more frequently than others. In this article, we will explore the science and psychology behind nose picking, as well as the potential health risks associated with this habit.

The Science Behind Nose Picking

The human nose serves as a filter for the air we breathe, trapping dust, dirt, and other harmful particles. The nose also produces mucus, which helps to moisturize and protect the nasal passages. However, excess mucus can accumulate, causing discomfort and the urge to clear it out. This is where nose picking comes in, as it provides a quick and easy way to remove mucus and other irritants from the nose.

Research has shown that nose picking stimulates the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for sensations in the face and head. This can create a pleasurable sensation, leading some people to pick their noses habitually. Additionally, some people may pick their noses as a form of self-soothing or as a way to cope with stress and anxiety.

Psychological Factors that Influence Nose Picking

Nose picking can also be influenced by psychological factors, such as boredom, anxiety, or even a lack of attention. Some people may pick their noses as a nervous habit, while others may do it absentmindedly while engaged in other activities. Additionally, some people may use nose picking as a way to assert control or independence, especially in situations where they feel powerless.

Why Do Children Pick Their Noses More Often?

Children are more likely to pick their noses than adults, as they are still learning about personal hygiene and social norms. Additionally, children may not have the same level of impulse control as adults, making it more difficult for them to resist the urge to pick their noses. Children may also be more prone to nose picking if they have allergies or other respiratory issues that cause nasal congestion.

Social Stigma Surrounding Nose Picking

Despite being a common habit, nose picking is often stigmatized and seen as a sign of poor hygiene or lack of self-control. This can cause people to feel ashamed or embarrassed about their nose picking, leading them to hide it from others. However, it is important to remember that nose picking is a natural and common behavior, and does not necessarily indicate a lack of hygiene or self-control.

Health Risks of Nose Picking

While nose picking itself is not harmful, it can lead to health risks if done excessively or improperly. One risk is the spread of germs, as bacteria and viruses can be transferred from the hands to the nose, potentially causing infections. Additionally, frequent nose picking can damage the delicate skin inside the nose, leading to nosebleeds, scarring, or even a perforated septum.

How to Break the Habit of Nose Picking

Breaking the habit of nose picking can be challenging, but there are several strategies that can help. One approach is to identify and address any underlying psychological factors that may be contributing to the habit. Other strategies include keeping the hands busy with other activities, practicing good hygiene, and using nasal saline sprays or other remedies to reduce the urge to pick.

Alternatives to Nose Picking

For those who struggle with the habit of nose picking, there are several alternatives that can help reduce the urge to pick. These include using a tissue or handkerchief to blow the nose, using a nasal aspirator to remove excess mucus, or using a saline nasal spray to moisturize the nasal passages.

Conclusion: Understanding and Overcoming Nose Picking

Nose picking is a common and natural habit that affects many people, but it can also be a source of embarrassment and health risks. By understanding the science and psychology behind nose picking, and implementing strategies to break the habit and reduce the urge to pick, individuals can take control of their nose picking and improve their overall health and well-being.

References and Further Reading

  • American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. (n.d.). Nosebleeds. Retrieved from
  • Ghanizadeh, A. (2013). Nose picking (rhinotillexis) and its association with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder in a community sample of Turkish children. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 44(3), 351-358. doi: 10.1007/s10578-012-0335-2
  • Prokopakis, E. P., Vlastos, I. M., & Giotakis, E. I. (2013). The nose and sexuality. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy, 27(5), 426-427. doi: 10.2500/ajra.2013.27.3921
Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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