The good news is that, unlike nail-biting, nose-picking is not a habit your child will likely carry into adulthood.
Do you want to know why your grade-schooler continues to pick their nose? Learn about nose picking and how you can help your child stop the habit.
Why do children aged 5 to 8 pick their noses?
Although some people classify nose picking as a “nervous habit” (along with thumb sucking, nail-biting, hair twisting, and tooth grinding), it isn’t always a sign that your child is unduly stressed. Children generally pick their noses because something inside their nose doesn’t feel right.
Children with allergies are the most zealous nose pickers because the heavy flow of mucus and consequent crusting gives them a “something’s up there” sense that makes it difficult to leave their noses alone. Certain environmental factors can make children more inclined to pick; for example, if your heating or air conditioning system is drying up your child’s nasal passages, they are more likely to pick.
What can be done about nose picking?
Germs on the fingers can cause minor skin infections inside the nose, and fingers in the nose are an excellent way to transfer colds and flu. The best way to eliminate nose picking is to treat dehydration or congestion; in the meantime, educating your child to use a handkerchief or tissue instead of their fingers may be the easiest way to cope with it.
Additionally, try the following strategies:
Take care of their allergies: A stuffy nose is most likely the effect of allergies. Dust mites, animal dander, pollen, and mould are the most common allergens affecting children. Learn how to reduce the allergy symptoms that cause nose-picking.
Keep them hydrated: If you live in a dry area or your heating or air conditioning system appears to be drying up your child’s nasal passages, give them plenty of fluids during the day and try a humidifier in their bedroom at night. A saline (not decongestant) nasal spray may also be beneficial.
Encourage children to use soap and water to wash their hands: Explain to your child that washing their hands a few times a day and keeping their nails cut so that dirt doesn’t build up behind them can help keep them healthy.
Teach them how to use a tissue or handkerchief: Whether you give your child a fabric handkerchief to keep in their pocket or tissues, encourage them to blow their nose occasionally and then wipe out their nostrils in private with a handkerchief. This eliminates the germ problem while also avoiding awkward social situations.
Bite your tongue: Nagging or punishing your child for picking their nose can sometimes make the situation worse.
Keep their hands occupied: Sometimes, a child who picks their nose simply needs something to do with their hands. Examine whether your child has enough downtime or whether they spend an excessive amount of time doing passive activities like watching television. Younger grade-schoolers enjoy large craft projects (glue, beads, feathers, ornamental paper scraps, markers, construction paper, glitter), jigsaw puzzles, sculpting with clay, cooking, and assembling simple models or building sets.
Know when to get help: If your child is picking their nose all the time, often until it bleeds, talk to their paediatrician. It could indicate an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed.