If you are the parent of a toddler-aged child and beyond, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself saying, “stop picking your nose!” (Followed by, “go wash your hands!) The whole scenario can be embarrassing, gross, and something we catch them doing quite often, as they seem to have a fascination with this orifice. While nose-picking is a common habit among little ones, it’s not something that we want them to do as they get older.
Dr. Steven Goudy, founder of Dr. Noze Best and Pediatric ENT hears a lot about nose picking from his patients and his main recommendation is “for parents is teach them to recognize when they are congested and use a tissue. Using a tissue and having them learn to blow their nose is key! Developing the habit of cleaning the nose using a tissue (or sometimes a sleeve) will reduce the frequency of nose picking. If they have allergies, ensuring that their nose is also kept clean with nasal saline and allergy medications is key.”
Nose Picking: Why Kids Love It And How To Get Them to Stop
First things first, most kids don’t pick their nose intentionally, it's most likely done out of habit to open up their nasal passages. In fact, Children’s Hospital of Los Angelos says “it is a learned habit that is done subconsciously.” Kids can also find themselves doing it whenever they are bored or just curious as they are used to cleaning their nose without a tissue.
The most concerning parts about nose picking are the spreading of bacteria or viral agents from their hands into their airways (leading to illness!) as well as the social stigma that can come along with picking your nose. This is especially true as your child reaches school age and is noticed doing it by their peers. No one wants to be caught with their finger in their nose, it's embarrassing and other kids can be cruel.
But is nose-picking really that bad? Dr. Goudy says, “developing normal nasal clearance habits from the beginning is important. Learning to sense and control their bodies is so important! Picking the nose can also lead to nasal trauma and nose bleeds, which can be scary and traumatic.”
How to get your child to stop picking their nose
If you have a chronic nose picker on your hands, we are here to help! Remember, this a common stage that little ones will go through and it’s totally normal. Here are a few tips for getting your kiddos to stop sticking their finger up their nose:
- Every time you see them picking their nose, make them stop what they’re doing, get a tissue and go wash their hands. They will start to get sick of doing this constantly.
- Open up your winter clothing drawer and put their mittens to good use! Having mittens on their hands whenever they are inside your home will alert them just how often they are trying to pick and help them overcome the habit.
- Keep your child’s nose moist. This can be done easily with saline drops or by having a humidifier near them. If they don’t have any dried mucus in their nostrils, they will have less of an urge to pick.
- Keep their hands busy!
- Cut their nails short to prevent digging and trauma that will cause nose bleeds!
Before you set off to break this snotty habit, we suggest that you create a code word for nose-picking with your little one. This is especially helpful whenever you’re in public and notice them picking. When they hear the code word, they know they need to stop, and no one around them will know what you’re talking about. This will help alleviate any embarrassment associated with it.
Lastly, don’t ever, ever, put anything on your child’s fingers like hot sauce or chili powder to deter them from picking. This is harmful and could land your child in the emergency room. Remember: they will eventually grow out of it, no need to punish them.
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