What Are Boogers And Why Do They Even Exist?

By Marisa Ramiccio. May 7th 2016

The human body does some amazing things, but it also does some things that are, well...gross. One of the grosser things the human body does is produce boogers. Those crusty or slimy little balls seem to inhabit your nose for no good reason, but believe it or not, they have a big job to do. Boogers play a key role in protecting some of your most important organs and they can even reveal things about your health that you may not realize.

What Boogers Are Made Of

So what exactly is a booger? It’s a combination of mucus, dirt and other debris that enters your nose when you breathe. To prevent that dirt and debris from entering your lungs, your nose will secrete mucus, which attaches itself to the dirt and dust particles. Those little balls of debris and mucus then get trapped in cilia, which are the tiny hairs in your nose, so that they also don’t enter your lungs. The cilia then push those blobs to the front of your nose where they dry out and officially become boogers.

The Importance Of Boogers

The American Academy of Otolaryngology says that each day, you breathe in about 18,000-20,000 liters of air. Along with all of that air, you’re also breathing in:

  • Pollen
  • Dirt
  • Dust
  • Dead skin cells

To keep all of that debris out of your lungs, your nose produces about a liter of mucus a day – now that’s a lot of boogers! The reason all of this is so important is because your nose and lungs are two of the most important organs you have. Your nose is responsible for warming up the air to body temperature before it reaches your lungs. It’s also responsible for keeping the lungs moist and filtering the air of debris that could interfere with your ability to breathe. So without that icky little army of boogers, your nose wouldn’t be able to protect and serve your lungs as well as it does.

What Your Boogers Can Tell You

Boogers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are squishy, some are dry and flaky, and some are super slimy. Boogers also come in a variety of colors, each of which can tell you something about the state of your nose. Here are the many colors of mucus and what they say about your health:

  • Clear – This is how your mucus should look. Clear mucus is normal and a sign that your nose is perfectly healthy.
  • Yellow – Yellow mucus is a warning sign that something’s gone awry in your nose. Typically, yellow boogers or just plain yellow mucus is a symptom of a sinus infection or bronchitis. They can even signify nasal polyps in the nasal passages, so if you notice any other symptoms such as sinus pain or a blocked nasal passage, visit your doctor to find out what the cause is.
  • Green – Green mucus is usually the sign of inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Bacteria are what cause the mucus to look green, but smoke and other air pollutants can do the same.
  • Brown – When mucus is brown, it’s usually caused by dried blood, either from an injury to the nose or from swollen sinuses. Smoking or being around those who smoke can also turn your boogers a brown or brownish gray color.
  • White – It’s rare to see a white booger, but when one comes along, don’t panic. Dairy foods, particularly milk, can cause boogers to turn white.

No Picking!

Some people say that the best tool to remove boogers from your nose is your finger. It can reach far into your nose and get into those nooks and crannies that otherwise wouldn’t be reached. However, this is not a good idea. Aside from the fact that picking your nose is just icky, it can also harm the tissue in your nose or cause a nosebleed, particularly if you have long fingernails. The best way to get rid of a booger is simply to blow your nose.

Eating Boogers

Why is it that some people, especially the little ones, love to eat their boogers? Is it just to gross other people out? Some doctors have argued that what they’re doing may actually be healthy for them. Yes, healthy. They believe that eating boogers could be healthy for kids because it boosts their immune systems. By ingesting the bacteria and germs in their noses, kids will have a better chance of fighting infections. Those doctors say that the more that kids eat their boogers, the less of a chance they have of getting sick. There isn’t much scientific evidence to support this claim, but one thing has definitely been proven – most people consider eating boogers to be quite disgusting.

Now that you know what boogers are and what their purpose is, perhaps you can view them in a different light. After all, without them your nose and lungs wouldn’t nearly be as healthy and loads of dirt and dust particles would be invading your body each day. They’re also good indicators of a nasal or sinus problem, so they’re important little critters even if they are gross.


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