This page has been robot translated, sorry for typos if any. Original content here.

Why do people pick their noses?

Почему люди ковыряются в носу?

Many of us are picking nose tunnels, but few are recognized. If we are caught red-handed, we feel embarrassed and hurt. And as a rule, we ourselves condemn people who do it in front of everyone. I am talking, of course, about trying to clear my nose. Is it really so bad poking around in the nose? And how much is it generally accepted or bad, in fact? And why does it occur to someone to taste the contents of the nose?

The official medical term used to describe the act of picking in the nose is “rhinotyl lexomania” . The first scientific studies of this phenomenon were undertaken relatively recently, in 1995, by a pair of American scientists, Thompson and Jefferson. They mailed questionnaires to thousands of adults in Dane County, Wisconsin. Of the 254 respondents, 91% admitted that they were picking their nose, while only 1.2% could admit that they do it at least once an hour. This study helped to find out that despite the existence of a cultural taboo on picking the nose, this is a fairly common phenomenon.

Habit of the young

Five years later, the doctors Chittaranan Andrade and BS Sriari from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience in Bangalore (India) decided to study the matter further. They reasoned like this: many habits appear in childhood and are more common among children and adolescents than adults, so it would be wiser to conduct a study of rhinotyloxemania among youth. Based on the experience of Wisconsin, where not all of the respondents answered, the scientists conducted a study directly in school classes, where the probability of getting answers is higher.

In general, Andrade and Sriari collected data from two hundred teenagers. Almost all of them admitted that they are picking their nose, on average, four times a day. But this is not all: 7.6% of students claim that they pick their noses more than 20 times every day, and about 20% believe that they have “serious problems with rhinotyllecomamania.” Most of them said they were picking their nose to get rid of an itch or clear their nose, but 24 students, and this is 12%, admitted that they do it just because they like it.

And the tool was not just fingers. 13 students said they used tweezers for picking, and 9 students used pencils. As well as as many as nine students admitted that they were eating their extracted treasure. Om-Nom-nom! As the experiment shows, there were no differences in socio-economic status, picking in the nose is the only thing that unites everyone.

Bruises on face

Nose-picking is not so harmless. In some cases, it can cause serious problems, as Andrade and Shriari found out by reviewing medical literature. In one case, the surgeons could not achieve a solid closure of the wounded nasal septum, because the patient was constantly picking his nose. In another case, a 53-year-old woman not only drilled a nasal septum with her finger, but also made a hole in the paranasal sinus.

The case of a 29-year-old man suffering from trichotillomania (pulling out hair) and rhinotyllexomania (picking his nose) at the same time is described. This case also served the appearance of the term rhinotyllexomania. This man was plucking his nose hair. When he went too far, inflammation appeared in his nose. To cure his nose, he began to process it with a solution of manganese, which led to the appearance of purple spots on the skin. To his surprise, when due to stains the hair in his nose was no longer visible, he felt much better. Yes, walking along the street with a purple nose was preferable for the poor man than with the "hairy" one. However, doctors were able to cure this disorder, which turned out to be a form of OCD.

Nose Threats

As a rule, picking the nose is not a pathology (it is interesting that the habit of gnawing at the nails and pulling out the hair is considered an obsessive-compulsive disorder, but rhinotyl lexomania is usually not). But this does not mean that intensive digging is completely harmless. In 2006, a group of Dutch scientists discovered that the constant presence in the nose of a finger can cause the spread of bacteria. Studying volunteers, they found one common detail: those who admitted that they could not leave their nose at rest had an increased level of pathogens, in particular, Staphylococcus aureus.

So why are we still doing this? There is no clear answer, but as Tom Stafford recently wrote about nail biting, this is probably due to the combination of satisfaction with “cleaning” and the fact that the nose is constantly within reach — in other words, we pick our nose just because we can.

Or perhaps picking your nose is a sign of laziness. Since the fingers are always at hand, if suddenly "zasverbilo", which can not be said about the box with paper shawls.

It's funny to believe that scientists are still trying to understand why we are doing this and what the consequences of this are. In 2001, the above-mentioned researchers from India, Andrade and Sriari, were awarded the Schnebel Prize, which "at first makes everyone laugh, and then think." At the ceremony, Andrade said: “Some people put their nose in other people's affairs. My own business forced me to stick in the noses of strangers ”.