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A man picking his nose
|Classification and external resources|
Nose-picking is the act of extracting nasal mucus with one's finger (rhinotillexis) and may include the succeeding action of ingesting the mucus picked from the nose (mucophagy). This action is condemned in most cultures; societies try to prevent development of the habit and attempt to break it if already established. Mucophagy is a source of mockery and entertainment in the media.
However, some scientists argue that mucophagy provides benefits for the human body. Friedrich Bischinger, an Austrian doctor specializing in lungs, advocates using fingers to pick nasal mucus and then ingesting it, stating that people who do so get "a natural boost to their immune system." The mucus contains a "cocktail of antiseptic enzymes that kill or weaken many of the bacteria that become entangled in it", so reintroducing the "crippled" microorganisms "may afford the immune system an opportunity to produce antibodies in relative safety."
Nose-picking is an extremely widespread habit: some surveys indicate that it is almost universal, with people picking their nose on average about four times a day. A 1995 study into nose-picking, requesting information from 1,000 randomly selected adults, gathered 254 responses. It defined nose-picking as "the insertion of a finger (or other object) into the nose with the intention of removing dried nasal secretions". Of those who responded, 91% said they were current nose-pickers (but only 75% of these believed everyone did it) and two people claimed to spend between 15 and 30 minutes and between one and two hours a day picking their noses.
Mucous membranes in the nasal cavity constantly produce a wet mucus that removes dust and pathogens from the air flowing through the cavity. For the most part, the cilia that also line the cavity work to move the mucus toward the throat, where it can be swallowed. However, not all the mucus stays fluid enough to be moved by the cilia. The closer the mucus is to the nostril opening, the more moisture it loses to the outside air, and the more likely it is to dry out and become stuck. Once dried, the mucus typically causes a sensation of irritation that leads to the compulsion to dislodge the itch by picking. Other reasons to remove excess dried mucus include impaired breathing through the nose and a concern that it may be visible to others in the nostril openings.
In many cultures[which?] nose-picking is considered a private act akin to defecation, urination, flatulence, and belching. Mucophagy, eating the extracted mucus, may be considered more taboo, and is sometimes portrayed in comedies. To be caught nose-picking may be considered humiliating.
The environment of the nose, and the dried secretions removed, contain many microorganisms. When a person is contagious with a cold, flu or other virus, it is important that hands or other objects used to remove mucus are washed promptly because there is risk of introducing microorganisms to other parts of the body or other people. When a person is not contagious, the act of picking and eating one's own nasal mucus can be therapeutic in that it may provide immuno-health benefits.
Picking one's nose with dirty fingers or fingernails may increase risks of infection that may include an increase in the diversity of nose flora (and thus infection or illness), or occasional nosebleeds. One case of rhinotillexomania resulted in perforation of the nasal septum and self-induced ethmoidectomy. Nose picking, however, should not affect the sense of smell, as the nasal cavity where the olfactory nerves are located is too high up to reach.
The 1968 Mothers of Invention song "Let's Make The Water Turn Black" tells a true story of an adolescent acquaintance of composer Frank Zappa who habitually saved his own extracted mucus on the pane of his bedroom window. An episode of Seinfeld entitled "The Pick" deals with the social stigma of publicly picking one's nose. Harry, a character in Requiem for a Dream mentions enjoying picking his nose in the first chapter of the book.
- Bellows, Alan (2009). "A Booger A Day Keeps The Doctor Away: A Medical Doctor Describes the Health Benefits of Nose-Mining". Alien Hand Syndrome: And Other Too-Weird-Not-To-Be-True Stories. Workman Publishing. pp. 28–30. ISBN 978-0761152255.
- Lane, Carin (March 23, 2012). "Like to become a stranger to illness? Read on". Times Union. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- Andrade, Chittaranjan; B.S. Srihari (2001). "A preliminary survey of rhinotillexomania in an adolescent sample". The Journal of clinical psychiatry 62 (6): 426–31. doi:10.4088/JCP.v62n0605. PMID 11465519. Reviewed in:
- Abrahams, Marc (2008-08-19). "Why teenagers get right up your nose". The Guardian. Improbable research. Retrieved 2008-12-07.
- Abrahams, Marc (2003). "Nose Picking in Adolescents". The Ig Nobel prizes: the annals of improbable research. New York City: E.P. Dutton. pp. 19–22. ISBN 0-525-94753-1. OCLC 52092050.
- Jefferson, James W.; Trevor D.B. Thompson (1995). "Rhinotillexomania: psychiatric disorder or habit?". The Journal of clinical psychiatry 56 (2): 56–9. PMID 7852253.
- Medical papers at PubMed
- Fontenelle, L.F.; M.V. Mendlowicz, T.C. Mussi, C. Marques and M. Versiani (December 2002). "The man with the purple nostrils: a case of rhinotrichotillomania secondary to body dysmorphic disorder". Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 106 (6): 464–6; discussion 466. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0447.2002.01463.x. PMID 12392491.
- AAMFT Consumer Update – Hair Pulling, Skin Picking and Biting: Body-Focused Repetitive Disorders, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
- Etymology: from Greek rhino (from ῥίς, rhis, "nose") + τίλλειν (tillein, "to pull") + exo "out" (or according to an alternative analysis, from Neolatin tillexis, "habit of picking", from Greek tillein and έξη, éksi, "habit") + mania.
- Wertheim, Heiman F.L.; Menno van Kleef, Margreet C. Vos, Alewijn Ott, Henri A. Verbrugh and Wytske Fokkens (August 2006). "Nose picking and nasal carriage of Staphylococcus aureus". Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology 27 (8): 863–7. doi:10.1086/506401. PMID 16874648. Retrieved 2008-12-07.
- Caruso, Ronald D.; Richard G. Sherry; Arthur E. Rosenbaum; Stephen E. Joy; Ja Kwei Chang; Douglas M. Sanford (1997). "Self-induced ethmoidectomy from rhinotillexomania". American Journal of Neuroradiology 18 (10): 1949–50. PMID 9403460. Retrieved 2008-12-06.
- Zappa, Frank; Peter Occhiogrosso (1989). "Boogers from Hell". The Real Frank Zappa Book. New York City: Poseidon Press. pp. 85–87. ISBN 0-671-70572-5. OCLC 43484351.
|Look up nose-picking in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Nose-picking|
- BBC home: The Truth About Nose-picking
- Toddlers and Nose Picking
- Adams, Cecil (1982-08-20). "Can you die from picking your nose?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- Ilori, Kemi (2007-06-19). "Nose Picking: The interesting and funny habit". The Daily Sun. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- "Man dies from picking his nose". The Daily Telegraph. 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- (In fact) Nose-picking favorite occupation of the Dutch (March 2007) (Dutch) Translated version
- Another article on same topic (August 2008) (Dutch) Translated version
- For an elaborate spoof, see "Nose-picking in the Pongidae and Its Implication for Human Evolution", said to be from the American Journal of Nasal Anatomy, (1987)