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BOD-ities: What's a booger?

Riddle Hospital December 12, 2018 BOD-ities By Joel R. Perloff, MD

What goes on inside our noses can feel like an icky topic, but you might be surprised to learn exactly what happens in there.

Your nose is lined with mucus membranes which produce—you guessed it!—mucus. But most of us don’t call this stuff mucus, we simply call it ‘snot’. We’ve been conditioned to think of snot as ‘yucky’ or gross, but it performs an important function. This mucus protects our nose and airways by filtering out environmental pollutants.

How exactly does it do this? When you breathe, you’re taking in air but you’re also taking in everything that comes with it—like dust, germs, dirt and pollen. Before these elements can reach your airways, the mucus and hair in your nose work together to trap them and keep them at the front of your nose.

After a while, this trapped debris and mucus begin to crust in the nose. This nasal crusting is more commonly known as a ‘booger’

Of course, we’ve all felt a build-up of nasal crust before. And while you might be tempted to pluck it out with your fingers, the best choice is always to blow your nose. There are a few reasons for this. If your nose is particularly dry (like during fall or winter) picking at your skin mucus membranes or at this crusting can make your nose bleed and be pretty painful.

Also, don’t forget that what you’d be picking is a build-up of stuff that wasn’t suited for your body in the first place. It belongs in a tissue, not in your hand, on your body or—for kids—in your mouth.

When you blow your nose you’re expelling helpful mucus. But don’t worry: Your body produces an average of one liter of the stuff per day, so it will quickly replenish to keep protecting your body.

Remember: It’s perfectly normal to have nasal crusting in your nose. In fact, it means your body is doing its job! This process is happening in your nose all the time, which is pretty cool.

There’s not much you can do to reduce the amount of crust in your nose, but you may want to carry an extra pack of tissues with you during allergy season or when the weather is changing. Nasal saline spray can also help soften the crust to make it easier to clear.

Find a doctor to answer all your quirky questions

Your primary care physician is a good person to talk to when it comes to your body quirks. Match with a primary care physician at myprimary.org.