Allergy, Nose & Sinus

Reasons why picking your nose is a bad idea

August 11, 2021
ent doctor nose picking

While nose picking has been and still is a curious habit, the reasons why people do it differ from individuals. For instance, noses that are dry or overly moist may cause irritation, and as such, some people may pick it to relieve discomfort. Others may pick their nose out of boredom or as a form of nervous habit, and only in rare instances, nose picking is a result of compulsive or repetitive behaviour.

Even though nose picking may not be socially acceptable, it is rarely dangerous. The most common consequence of nose picking is epistaxis, also known as nosebleeds. In this article, we’ll address the various causes of nose picking, its associated risks, and what warrants a visit to an ENT Specialist in Singapore as well as treatment options available. 

Common Causes Of Nose Picking

As mentioned earlier, people pick their nose for a variety of reasons, and here are some of the common reasons seen by doctors in ENT clinics:

1. Boogers

Boogers are one of the most common reasons that people pick their noses. The nasal lining produces mucus to clear the particles in the air during inhalation; boogers describe the dried nasal mucus that traps pollen, dust, and other debris inside the nostrils. When there is an accumulation of boogers, it can end up blocking the nasal passages, resulting in people feeling discomfort. Furthermore, it may also affect a person’s breathing; hence people may use their fingers to pick out their boogers and clear the nasal passages.

2. Nasal Structure

Structural irregularities within the nose can cause problems that may increase the likelihood of nose picking. Our nose is divided into two nasal passageways, which are typically the same size, by the septum, cartilage, and mucous membrane.

deviated nasal septum

Source: Health Jade

In cases where people have a deviated septum – septum does not run down the centre of their nose – as a result of a birth defect or injury to the nose,  not only will they experience sinus problems, but they may also be more prone to nose picking. 

Read more: Deviated nasal septum

3. Compulsion

While nose picking is a nervous habit for some, it can develop into a compulsive behaviour for others. 

Also known as rhinotillexomania, compulsive nose-picking is a type of body-focused repetitive behaviour (BFRB). This term often refers to a group of obsessive self-grooming behaviours that can cause unintentional bodily harm. 

Besides nose picking, other types of BFRB include: 

  • Nail biting 
  • Hair pulling 
  • Skin picking

Most ENT Specialists in Singapore often notice that people who are prone to BFRBs tend to perform these behaviours when they feel stressed or anxious.

Although nose picking is generally harmless, there are still some risks involved. The common problems associated with nose picking are: 

  • Unintentionally damaging the tissues and structures inside the nose
  • Introducing viruses, bacteria, as well as other contaminants into the nose
  • Spreading bacteria and viruses from the nose onto other surfaces in the environment. 

Besides the listed problems, there’s also the risk of triggering nosebleeds. Blood vessels on the front part of the septum are very superficial, and as such picking your nose rubs the nasal debris against the nasal lining, resulting in bleeding. Although septum perforation is rarely seen by ENT Specialists in Singapore, constantly picking your nose can put you at risk of chronic infection, inflammation and thickening of your nasal passages.

when to worry about nosebleeds according to ent doctors

Find out more about: When To Worry About Nosebleeds

How To Stop The Habit Of Nose Picking

Although children are the most zealous nose pickers, some adults are unable to drop this bad habit. Regardless of what prompts you to start picking your nose, here are some tips recommended by our Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist, Dr Gan to help you reduce the habit. 

1. Treat the underlying cause of mucus overproduction

Dusty environments or allergens increase mucus production, whereas low humidity causes dry sinuses. No matter the underlying cause, it is advisable to identify it before you work towards reducing or eliminating it so you can better control your nose’s mucus production. This can be done by seeking the professional advice of an ENT Specialist in Singapore, from there they may be able to reduce booger production.

2. Use saline sprays and rinses

Having dry nasal passages can be caused by dry air (sitting in an air-conditioned room for prolonged periods), eventually leading to increased booger production. Hence, if this is the underlying cause of your bad habit, an ENT Specialist or doctor may recommend the use of saline sprays to restore moisture and prevent dry snot. Using a humidifier can also help to increase the natural moisture in a room as well.

ent specialist nasal sprays

Saline rinses are used to clear nasal passages and sinus cavities. A rinse may be especially effective when seasonal allergies become most problematic – it rinses out any pollen or allergens that may irritate your nasal passages and cause them to create excess mucus.

3. Find an alternative stress reliever

People with chronic stress or anxiety may find that nose picking provides them with a temporary moment of relief. As such, you should find an alternative and more productive stress reliever. For instance, if you need to keep your hands busy, you can choose to use a stress ball instead. 

In conclusion

If you notice blood in your boogers, it may be a sign of something more serious, and perhaps consider consulting an ENT Specialist in Singapore. Similarly, it is also best to seek medical help if you suffer from persistent nose irritation, abnormal discharge, bleeding, or pain and swelling in your nostrils. 

Reach out to Dr Gan, at his ENT clinic in Mt Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre and find out more about the treatment options as well as tips to help you kick this habit. 


    When Should You See an ENT Specialist in Singapore?

    • Any ear, nose or throat symptoms that you are troubled with or concerned about
    • Persistent blocked nose with mouth breathing or snoring

    Dr Gan Eng Cern

    Dr Gan Eng Cern is a distinguished ENT doctor with fellowship training. In addition to his clinical practice as an ear, nose and throat specialist in Singapore, Dr. Gan has contributed to the academic field as a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. He is recognised for his extensive research work, with numerous contributions to reputable international ENT journals. Dr Gan is also highly sought after as a speaker and has shared his surgical knowledge as a surgical dissection teacher at various prominent ENT conferences and courses.


    • 2020 – Reader’s Choice Gold Award for Best ENT Specialist (Expat Living Singapore)
    • 2016 – Best Educator Award (Eastern Health Alliance)
    • 2016 – “Wow” Award (Patient Compliment)
    • 2014 – Eastern Health Alliance Caring Award – Silver
    • 2014 – 19th Yahya Cohen Memorial Lectureship (awarded by the College of Surgeons, Academy of Medicine Singapore for best scientific surgical paper)
    • 2012 – Human Manpower Development Award (Ministry of Health, Singapore)
    • 2007 – Singhealth Best Doctor Award


    • MBBS – Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
    • MRCS (Edin) – Member of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    • MMed (ORL) – Master of Medicine in ENT (National University of Singapore)
    • FAMS – Fellow of the Academy of Medicine Singapore

    Why Choose Dr Gan Eng Cern


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    Experienced and patient ENT Specialist who has your best interests at heart. We aim to provide you with accessible and specialized care for any ENT condition in a comfortable setting.


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