Nose Picking Spreads Staphylococcus Aureus and Causes Internal Nasal Injuries

In childhood, many people tended to stick their fingers up their noses. As adults, some have kept up this bad habit, which may seem harmless, but is not without health risks. As a reminder, boogers are made up of dry mucus. This is an essential part of our respiratory defense system. This biological filter traps dust, allergens, and other unwanted particles before they enter our airways. By picking our nose, we alter this protective barrier and expose our respiratory tract to a greater risk of infection.

Nose Picking

Nose Picking Credit: Wawaphotography

Read Also: NLRP3 Inflammasome Might Not Play a Role in UTI Caused by Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus(MRSA)

Staphylococcus aureus: Regular nose-picking stimulates nasal colonization

In a study published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, British researchers demonstrated that staphylococcus aureus, a germ responsible for various mild to severe infections, is often found in the nostrils of people who pick their noses. To reach this conclusion, they recruited 238 adults. They had attended several doctor’s appointments because of illnesses affecting the ears, nose, and throat. They were then examined for “nasal carriage” of Staphylococcus aureus. The results revealed a link between “the frequency of nose picking and the frequency of positive culture results and the load of S. aureus present in the nose”. In addition, this bad habit can cause lesions and abrasions inside the nose, facilitating the invasion of bacteria and microbes throughout the body.

Read Also: NLRP3 Inflammasome Might Not Play a Role in UTI Caused by Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus(MRSA)

Alzheimer’s, Covid-19: more risks from this bad habit?

Another study, published in February 2022 in the journal Scientific Reports, raised the possibility that picking the nose could allow Chlamydia Pneumoniae to spread to the brain, with possible consequences for cognitive health. “We are the first to show that this bacterium can pass directly through the nose and enter the brain, where it can cause pathologies that resemble Alzheimer’s disease. We have seen this happen in mice and the evidence is potentially frightening for humans too,” said Professor James St John, author of the research, in a press release.

And that’s not all. In addition to the risks mentioned above, scientists at Griffith University (Austria) found that regular nose-picking was associated with an increased risk of contracting Covid-19. The virus responsible for this disease is transmitted mainly through the respiratory tract and by regularly putting our fingers in our nostrils, we increase the chances of the virus entering our bodies.


Chacko, A., Delbaz, A., Walkden, H. et al. Chlamydia pneumoniae can infect the central nervous system via the olfactory and trigeminal nerves and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease risk. Sci Rep 12, 2759 (2022).

Wertheim, H. F. L., van Kleef, M., Vos, M. C., Ott, A., Verbrugh, H. A., & Fokkens, W. (2006). Nose Picking and Nasal Carriage of Staphylococcus aureus. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 27(8), 863-867.



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