Is it healthy to pick your nose?

If you do a search on the web for information about rhinotillexis (aka nose picking) you'll soon run across references to Dr. Friedrich Bischinger, described as an Austrian lung specialist, who is quoted as saying that nose-picking combined with nasal mucus eating is a healthy habit:

"With the finger you can get to places you just can't reach with a handkerchief, keeping your nose far cleaner.
"And eating the dry remains of what you pull out is a great way of strengthening the body's immune system.
"Medically it makes great sense and is a perfectly natural thing to do. In terms of the immune system the nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria are collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine.
"Modern medicine is constantly trying to do the same thing through far more complicated methods, people who pick their nose and eat it get a natural boost to their immune system for free."

Bischinger is referenced in the Wikipedia article about nose-picking as well as in a Damn Interesting article on the same subject.

The problem is that this quotation from Dr. Bischinger doesn't come from a medical journal article. Instead, it traces back to an Ananova article (never a good sign), and before that to a news wire article that did the rounds in March 2004.

I had to wonder, does Dr. Bischinger even exist, or was he the creation of a bored journalist?

Well, he does exist. I couldn't find any medical articles authored by him, but after some searching I did find his contact details listed at the arztverzeichnis website. He is an Austrian lung specialist. Based on a posting on the Improbable Research site, it looks like Bischinger was first interviewed by a German-language magazine, Tirol, and then the quotation was noticed and circulated by a news wire reporter.

To conclude: I don't know if nose-picking and booger-eating is good for you. All we can say is that in the opinion of one Austrian doctor it is healthy. However, Dr. Bischinger doesn't appear to have conducted an actual medical study of the habit.


Posted on Fri Dec 05, 2008


Thanks, Alex.
The next time somebody calls me a nose-picker, I'm going to say, "I'm not a nose-picker, I'm a rhinotillexist!"

Dr. Bischinger sounds like a homeopathist.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Fri Dec 05, 2008  at  09:14 AM
Pick, but pick gently.

You don't want to wear a hole through, unless you're into bull-nose rings.
Posted by Tommy  on  Fri Dec 05, 2008  at  09:26 AM
Love your choice of picture, Alex. :lol:
Posted by Tah  in  Idaho (Yes, Idaho)  on  Fri Dec 05, 2008  at  11:54 AM
Consider that there are people that also believe it's healthy to drink one's own urine, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to do it. Sounds like more homeopathic B.S.

Great website. Keep up the good work.
Posted by Mike  on  Fri Dec 05, 2008  at  12:41 PM
I can - sort of - understand the logic on this. It probably does strengthen the immune system. Scientists have shown that mice raced in totally germ free environments have poorly functioning immune systems.

So getting your daily dose of bacteria, via boogers, just might improve your health.

But it's going to leave you a lonely friendless person. There's got to be a better way!
Posted by Dawn  on  Mon Aug 02, 2010  at  08:22 PM
Hi Fritz,

I agree on your Picking the nose publication. Ich habe dich auf Facebook gesucht, ohne erfolg :(

Posted by Renate Schares  on  Sat Mar 19, 2011  at  01:53 AM
Ich dachte das war ein Witz von dir Friedrich (Fritz). Aber das scheint ernst gemeint von dir zu sein. Wahrscheinlsich hast du nicht an die Umwelt gedacht in der wir leben. Ich wuerde nie jemanden raten noch zusaetzlich die angesammelten Bakterien und Fungus die sich in den sog. "Nasen Maennern" gebildet haben zu verspeisen....😊 Du bist halt ein Witzbolt geblieben. 😊

Posted by Renate Schares  on  Mon Mar 28, 2011  at  12:28 PM
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