What Are Boogers Made Of?

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Boogers are one of those things we all experience daily. They may seem gross, but they are an essential part of your body's immune system. As we grew up, we were taught a little bit here and there about mucus, a primary booger component. But for most adults, the only part we really seem to remember being taught is "don't pick your nose, and don't eat your boogers." 

Even though this lesson is what we all remember learning, it's believed up to 91% of adults pick their noses. Many people aren't even sure why boogers have to exist in the first place, which is why it's time to dig deep into the science of boogers (pun intended). 

A young Asian woman in a black sweater is blowing her nose.

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What Actually Are Boogers?

Boogers are like an air filter for your body. They are a combination of mucus, dirt, pollution, bacteria, viruses, and dead skin cells that have dried together. Everything collected by the mucus in our nose prevents harmful germs and irritants from getting too far into our bodies and making us sick.

What Is Snot?

Whether you call it mucus, phlegm, or snot, it all comes back to the same thing—the slimy form of mucus living in your nose. Simply put, snot is mucus in the pre-booger phase. Once snot dries, it becomes a booger. 

The goal of snot is to protect and lubricate the parts of the body exposed to the outside world. Our body must stay protected and hydrated to maintain optimal health. One way our body does this is by creating snot in our nose. This mucus will coat the lining of our noses and keep it from cracking or bleeding. Preventing injury or damage to the nose is crucial to our immune system because a simply cut gives bacteria, fungus, and viruses direct, unprotected access to our body. 

What Do Boogers Do?

Snot, or boogers, are like a lint roller for your nose. Whenever you breathe in dust, pollen, pollution, germs, or anything besides pure oxygen, the snot in your nose is there to collect it and keep it from wreaking havoc in another part of your body. 

The goal of mucus is to keep the area of the body it's protecting from drying out. If we don't have mucus providing moisture to these areas, then that area will dry out, start to crack, and your body will be much more susceptible to dangerous, potentially life-threatening infections.

Boogers Can Be Different Colors

If you've ever looked at a Kleenex after blowing your nose, you may have noticed a variety of colors. Many people are taught that your snot's color will indicate what kind of problem your body is fighting. For instance, many people believe yellow or green snot is a sign of an infection. 

However, looking at your snot's color as an indicator of a bigger health problem is a myth. In reality, the yellow or green color in boogers comes from the abundance of iron in our neutrophils. Neutrophils are the first responders to an infection in our body. When there is any sign of a germ inside your body, neutrophils are sent to destroy the intruder.

Virus and Bacteria Protection

When nasal mucus, or snot, is made, there's more to the slimy substance than what you see. Our nasal mucus includes a ton of antibodies in charge of activating our immune system when we breathe in bacteria or viruses through our nose.

Boogers Keep You Healthly

Snot also consists of a type of enzyme known as lysozyme, which destroys the bacteria and viruses in our nasal cavity.

Allergy Defense

When the body detects something like pollen, it triggers a defensive maneuver known as an allergic reaction. Your body recognizes an irritant has entered your system. At this point, the body signals the release of a substance known as histamine. This histamine release informs your body it's time to increase mucus production, so the pollen will be caught by the mucus and ultimately destroyed either by the neutrophils in the snot or by sneezing. 

How Are Boogers Made?

The lining inside our nose contains the mucous membrane. This mucous membrane is responsible for creating the thick, slimy substance we all know as snot. When this mucus mixes with air and begins to dry out, a booger is made. 

What to Do if You Have a Lot of Boogers?

There are many, many reasons why you might have a lot of boogers. You may be getting sick, actively sick, experiencing seasonal allergies, eating hot salsa, or simply dehydrated.

Like so many things, mucus is primarily composed of water. When your body is dry or dehydrated, the mucus will be more dry and thick, creating boogers. By staying hydrated, mucus stays in a more fluid state, which means fewer boogers in your nose.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, an antihistamine is often recommended to reduce the reaction your body is creating when introduced to a large amount of pollen or dust.

You may also consider using a device known as a neti pot. A neti pot is a container intended to hold sterile water. Using this container, you can rinse debris and mucus from your nose and sinus cavities.

Ultimately, there are many reasons why you may be producing a considerable amount of snot. If you are concerned by the amount of boogers in your nose, it could be worth talking to your healthcare provider about your options to control nasal mucus production.

The Best Way to Pick Your Nose

Picking your nose is never the best idea, and it can be dangerous. First, there's the risk of cutting the inside of your nose. Once you get a cut inside your nose, it's going to take time to heal correctly. This, in turn, means there is a higher chance of being unprotected from germs when you're breathing.

Second, your hands tend to be home to the most bacteria on your body because of how many different things you touch throughout the day. By introducing the germs on your fingers to your nose, you significantly increase your risk of getting an infection.

However, there's always that moment when you need to get something out of your nose because you can feel it, can't stop thinking about it, and blowing your nose isn't fixing the problem.

If you feel the inexplicable need to pick your nose, the best way to do it is with a tissue. Then, promptly wash your hands to avoid spreading the germs from your nose to yourself or someone else.

Don't Eat Your Boogers

Boogers often contain bacteria and viruses, so eating boogers could expose the body to germs. It's not a good idea.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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