Nose Picking

Almost all toddlers go through a stage where they pick their nose. Adults often see nose-picking as a disgusting habit which needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. However, it is important to realise why children go through this stage.

Often children pick their nose, simply because it is there and the nostrils seem to be perfect size for a finger. Children do not normally carry out these actions to upset you but because they are curious, inquisitive and interested in their body and how it works. Nose picking is not normally a sign that a child is nervous or anxious but can show that a child is bored and carried out to pass the time.

Luckily children usually outgrow nose-picking without any major intervention.  It is often a habit which children get bored of. However, if your child is constantly picking at their nose there are a few things that you could try to help your child with this habit.

  • Do not punish your child
  • Seek medical advice
  • Keep your child busy
  • Teach your child to blow their nose
  • Be patient

Do not punish your child: Most children do not even realise that they are picking their nose and therefore they will not understand why they are being punished. In the past, parents were advised to use plasters on the child’s fingers to make nose-picking more difficult but this is very unlikely to work and more likely to upset your child who is unlikely to understand. Shouting at your child or persistent nagging very rarely solves the problem and so it is important to try and remain calm when your child picks their nose even if you feel embarrassed or ashamed by your child’s actions. A lot of toddlers also seem to enjoy creating a power struggle with their parents, if you say ‘no’ too often, your toddler may retaliate by continuing.

Seek medical advice: Children are more likely to pick their nose if they have a lot of mucus in their nose which may be due to a cold or an allergy. Children may be aware that there is something up their nose and try to pick at it to find out what it is. You could ask your pharmacist to advise some drops or oil to help clear your child’s nose.

Children are also more likely to pick their nose during the winter months as use of central heating can dry out the nasal passages. You could ask your pharmacist for some advice as a saline nasal spray or humidifier could be used to help your child.

If your child is constantly picking at their nose, it may be sensible to ensure that your child has not pushed an object up their nosewhere it has got stuck. If you are unsure, you should speak to your doctor who will be able to check in your child’s nose.

If your child excessively picks at their nose and causing self-harm such as bleeding from the nostril, you should speak to your doctor of health visitor for advice.

Keep your child busy: If your child has busy fingers; they are less likely to pick their nose. Small toys which require good finger control are good such as finger puppets, beads, lacing boards and threading buttons or cotton reels.

Teach your child to blow their nose: If your child is picking their nose because they feel something is up there, learning to blow their nose may mean there is no need for their fingers to pick up there.

Be patient: Usually, you will need to let the nose-picking phase run its natural short course. As your child grows, her concentration levels will improve and she will become more engaged in toys, games and complex tasks which are likely to stop this stage of nose-picking.

If your child still insists on nose-picking, they are likely to meet another child who will be disgusted by this action, and your child will suddenly be motivated to stop this habit in order to fit in. If your child comes to you wanting to give up this habit, you should help your child in a happy and relaxed manner.

If you have any worries or concerns about your child and nose-picking, you should seek advice from your health visitor.

by Jenny, mum to William and James

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