Mucus in the nose helps trap germs and other particles to prevent them from entering the body. When mucus, germs, and particles dry out, it forms a booger in the nose. Removing it can be risky.
Nose boogers can feel uncomfortable and irritating, potentially leading a person to pick their nose. People may also pick their nose out of boredom or curiosity or as an unconscious habit.
Picking the nose can remove boogers and any contaminants that they contain. However, the self-removal of nose boogers carries some risks, such as:
- spreading infectious agents from the nose to the hand, or vice versa
- irritating the inside of the nose
- causing nose bleeds
Here we look at the causes and purpose of nose boogers, as well as how to remove deep nose boogers safely.
Removing deep boogers can sometimes relieve discomfort. However, people should do this carefully, ensuring that they keep their hands clean and dispose of the boogers properly afterward.
Studies have shown that the hands can transmit dangerous bacteria and that nose picking can easily transfer bacteria between the hands and nose.
People can remove boogers safely by:
- washing and drying the hands thoroughly before starting
- using a tissue for the actual removal
- being careful to avoid irritating or injuring the skin inside the nose
- avoiding revisiting the same part of the nose repeatedly, as this can damage nasal tissue
- disposing of the nose booger and the tissue properly after removal
- washing and drying the hands thoroughly afterward
Figuring out how to remove deep boogers safely from a baby, especially a newborn, can be challenging for parents and caregivers.
A safe and effective technique uses a combination of saline nose drops and a rubber suction bulb.
The steps are as follows:
- make sure that the baby is as calm as possible
- start loosening any deep boogers with one or two drops of saline nose drops into each nostril
- squeeze the air out of the suction bulb
- insert the end of the bulb carefully into one nostril and gently start releasing it
- repeat the process with the other nostril
- wash the hands
- wash and disinfect the rubber bulb thoroughly after each use
Mucus does have an important purpose. It is present all over the body, and its function changes slightly depending on its location.
All that mucus eventually leaves the body through the nose or mouth. The stomach also digests mucus after a person swallows it.
Mucus typically comprises 98% water, 1% salt, and 1% long molecules. Long molecules, known as mucins, give mucus its sticky and slimy consistency, which helps trap germs and other particles.
The mucus in the nose is there to keep environmental contaminants out of the lungs. These include:
Once mucus has trapped these invaders, nose hairs called cilia guide the mucus out through the front of the nose or toward the back of the throat. Boogers develop when mucus containing contaminants dries out.
Boogers consist of a mixture of mucus and other particles, including bacteria, pollen, dirt, and dust. They develop when mucus, which is mainly water, dries out.
People are more likely to develop boogers when they are producing a lot of mucus, such as when they have a cold or an allergy, or when they breathe dry air, such as in heated buildings during the winter.
People are more likely to have nose boogers if they have dry skin in the inner nose. People can address this problem by:
- hydrating the nose with a saline spray
- moisturizing the lining of the nose with a natural oil
- drinking more water to improve overall hydration
- using a humidifier to increase the moisture in the surrounding air
If people have a sinus infection due to a virus or bacteria, the sinuses become inflamed, and mucus production increases. This increase in mucus can result in more boogers.
The following can help people feel more comfortable and may lead to fewer boogers:
- saltwater nasal rinses
- nasal sprays
- decongestant medications
- pain relievers, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin
The primary reasons to see a doctor regarding nose boogers are:
- serious bleeding from the nose, which may be a sign of injury
- recurring nasal problems, which may indicate an underlying issue, such as a sinus infection
- significant pain and discomfort in the nose, which may mean that the problem is not due to nose boogers at all
- mucus changing color alongside other symptoms that last for more than 10 days
Nose boogers are a common health condition that can be bothersome but is rarely harmful. Dry air, lack of hydration within the body, and levels of mucus production can all affect the number of boogers in a person’s nose.
The most important safety points for removing deep boogers are:
- avoiding repetitive nose picking, as it can irritate the lining of the nose
- washing the hands thoroughly before and after booger removal to avoid the spread of germs
- using a clean tissue to remove any boogers and disposing of it afterward
- using saline nose drops and a rubber suction bulb to remove deep boogers safely from newborns
If people have any persistent pain, bleeding, or discomfort in the nose, they can see their doctor to check for underlying problems.