How to Stop Nose Picking in Preschoolers

Kids do the grossest things. Here's how to break the habit

Little kids can do some pretty gross things, including picking their noses and sometimes eating what they dig out. In addition to being socially unacceptable, nose picking spreads germs.

A 2018 study published in the European Respiratory Journal found that nose picking can spread the bacteria responsible for pneumonia. What's more, nose picking can cause trauma to nasal passages, resulting in nosebleeds, infections, and hard-to-heal sores.

If nose picking isn't nipped in the bud in preschool, it may become a hard-to-break habit as she gets older. 

Why Kids Pick Their Noses

Nose picking is a pretty normal preschool habit and there are a few reasons why little ones engage in it:

  • Her nose feels funny due to an excess of moist or dry nasal mucus that she wants to get out
  • Nervous habit
  • Stress
  • Boredom

No matter which category your child falls in, nose picking is something that needs to be stopped.

How To Stop Your Child From Nose Picking

As soon as you see your child start to pick her nose, call her attention it, hand her a tissue, and remind her to stop. Repeat as necessary. If nose picking is a new habit, it's possible that there is something in her nose, like excess mucus, that is annoying her.

Discuss Hygiene Concerns

Some children do not even realize they are picking their nose and it becomes an absent-minded habit. Keep calling your child's attention to it and make her wash her hands after she stops. 

Explain that nose picking is not a clean habit and can not only cause her nose to be infected, it can spread also germs and make her or other people sick.

Enlist in Aids

There are plenty of products on the market designed to get a child to stop nose picking, but even the simple act of putting an adhesive bandage on your child's finger might do the trick, especially if she is doing it subconsciously. Explain why you are putting the bandage there, so she connects the bandage to not picking her nose. 

Give Her Something Else To Do

Your child's nose picking could stem from boredom or may just fulfill a need to keep busy. If she watches a lot of television or sits passively, try to engage her in other activities. Busy hands are less likely to wind up in her nose.

Ask For Help

It's unlikely that a simple case of a child picking her nose is anything serious, but on rare occasions, it can be, particularly if the behavior comes on suddenly and is coupled with something else (like bedwetting, for example).

Nose picking could mean your child has something else going on. Compulsive nose picking, or rhinotillexomania, can be triggered by stress. If you suspect your child is struggling beyond age-appropriate nose picking, a call to the pediatrician might be worthwhile.

Ignore It

If you've tried everything to stop nose picking, to no avail, letting her be may be all you can do for a while. Make sure she washes her hands frequently, and keep her nails short and not sharp.

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Article Sources
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  1. Connor V, German E, Pojar S, et al. Hands are vehicles for transmission of in novel controlled human infection study. Eur Respir J. 2018;52(4). doi:10.1183/13993003.00599-2018

  2. Jefferson JW, Thompson TD. Rhinotillexomania: psychiatric disorder or habit?. J Clin Psychiatry. 1995;56(2):56-9.

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