What are Boogers: Why Boogers are Good for Health


Gunk in our noses and nasal passages can make us feel worse in the spring and winter months. And while boogers are gross, they’re important to our health and protect us from getting sick. Suzy Gomez-Goldman, MD, UnityPoint Health-Meriter, explains what a booger is and how it forms. She also highlights five things about boogers you probably never knew, including why kids eat boogers and the best way for people of all ages to pick boogers. (Yes, cleaning out your nose is important.)

What are Boogers?

Our body makes boogers to protect us from viruses and irritating particles in the environment. All boogers are made of dried out mucus. Our bodies produce mucus, a slimy substance that's mostly water, salt and protective immune cells. Mucus then traps tiny particles like viruses, pollen and dust to keep them from traveling to our lungs. After the mucus traps these particles, little hairs in our nose (called cilia) move the mucus toward the front of our nose. Then, we either blow our nose to get rid of the mucus, or it sits toward the front of our noses and dries out, becoming a booger.  

5 Interesting Booger Facts

  1. If you don’t clean boogers out of your nose, you’ll most likely swallow them. Most mucus our bodies make ends up in the stomach. If you don’t clean out boogers by blowing or picking them, the dried-out mucus that moved to the front of the nose can make its way back to the nasal passages and down the throat. This is called postnasal drip.
  2. The best way to pick your nose is with a tissue. Boogers are mostly made of mucus and germs, so it’s a good idea to use a tissue. Wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer, after you blow or pick your nose, too. If you need help cleaning out your nose, try a saline mist, spray or drops.
  3. If you have a lot of boogers, try drinking more water. Since mucus is made of water, it’s important to drink plenty of it to keep mucus thin and have less boogers. If your body is dry, it’ll make more boogers, too. During Midwest winters, having the heat on makes the air drier. Our bodies make thicker mucus when we breathe in dry air, which is harder to clear from the nose. Thick mucus can also lead to postnasal drip that irritates the throat.
  4. It’s OK if boogers are bloody or discolored. Sometimes, our boogers turn different colors or are bloody. It usually doesn’t mean anything bad. We have lots of tiny little blood vessels in our nose, so sometimes when we blow or pick our nose, we see a little blood in the mucus. Dry air can also make it worse.
  5. Kids eat boogers because they’re salty. Most kids eat their boogers because they taste salty. Try using positive reinforcement to help stop this behavior. Don’t scold your child for picking and/or eating boogers. Instead, use praise when they use a tissue to blow or clean out their nose. Since boogers hold onto germs, teach them to not pick their nose to reduce the spread of bugs. If you’re worried about your child’s habits, talk to their primary care doctor.

Is Nose Picking Bad?

Nose picking usually doesn’t cause serious problems, but it’s not a good habit. It causes the spread of germs which can lead to you, or others, getting sick. Nose picking can also irritate the lining of the nose which can lead to more frequent nose bleeds. Some people develop sores or more serious infections if bacteria get into tiny cuts from nose picking. In rare cases, excessive nose picking can lead to damage, or even a hole, in the nasal septum which divides the left and right nostril. See your primary care provider if you're concerned about having an infection, or if you think there's damage to your nose due to nose picking.