What is Mucophagy?
Mucophagy is basically snot-eating, consuming mucus that comes from the nose. It is common to see small children picking and eating their mucus, but through the years parents in particular and society in general has made it a point to discourage such habit given the mucophagy dangers. The habit is closely associated with rhinotillexomania, or the habit of excessively picking the nose. It is also considered associated with the disorder called pica, which is a condition characterized by a person craving for and eating non-food items like soap, sand, and other similar non-edible materials. Individuals who have mucophagy may find it hard to stop picking their nose and eating mucus in private or public.
It should be noted however that the individual who has this condition is quite aware of this disgusting and socially unaccepted behavior. It is said that about 10% of people who pick their nose are also likely to eat their snot, but the belief is that the rate of people who engage in mucophagy after picking their nose is significantly higher than that.
In 2007, Dr. Friedrich Bischinger, an Austrian lung specialist, made headlines when he argued that picking the nose and eating snot is an inexpensive and effective way. He added that those who engaged in rhinitillexomania and mucophagy where far healthier and happier than those who do not. He added that the finger is more effective in cleaning the nose since it can fit to places which cannot be reached using a handkerchief. That claim, however, has been widely criticized around the world.
As mucophagy is considered a sub-group of pica, it can be said that symptoms of pica are the same as mucophagy. Mucophagy is common among children aged 1-2 years old, who are young enough not to realize the dangers of the habit. Mucophagy can also be common among people with mental retardation.
Dangers of Mucophagy
To understand mucophagy dangers, one simply has to look at what the mucus is. This is a sticky and slimy secretion of the nose that helps in the protection of the lungs. Mucus traps pollutants inhaled by the nose such as dirt, dust, pollen, and germs. These irritants may infect or irritate the lungs if not for the presence of mucus, making it difficult to breathe. Along with cilia or the hairs inside the nose, mucus traps these irritants that can potentially damage the lungs. When the mucus, hair, and other debris in the nose dry out, it becomes what is called a booger or snot.
It doesn’t take rocket science to realize how unhealthy it is to eat snot given its characteristics. Because it is essentially dust and particles accumulated inside the nose, it is full of germs and other harmful organisms which can possibly bring various health problems to an individual. It is not surprising why this habit is frowned upon in almost all parts of the world, not only because of its disgusting nature but because of the health risks it brings.
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Creative Commons Attribution / Supplied by Jeremie63