There’s an old joke: what’s the difference between broccoli and bogeys? It’s hard to get kids to eat broccoli.
We’re more familiar with the sight of a kid plucking a clump of hideousness from their nose and shoving it into their gob than we’d like to be – and sometimes they make it worse by looking so pleased with themselves afterwards. It’s disgusting. The only places snot should be are in your nose, in a tissue, or subtly pressed onto the roof of your car while you think nobody is looking.
(Okay, I’ve tried it. We’ve all tried it. It was a dry run for smoking – all my friends did it, so I gave it a go, and was delighted to find that it wasn’t for me.)
But, as luck would have it, it’s probably not bad for you, according to a scientist. It might even be good for you, raising the horrifying possibility that maybe we should be, *shudder*, encouraging the occasional mucus-munch.
Biochemist Professor Scott Napper, from the University of Saskatchewan, even posited that the reason for bogeys’ sweet taste is to encourage people to eat them. “I’ve got two beautiful daughters and they spend an amazing amount of time with their fingers up their nose,” he told CBC. “From an evolutionary perspective, we evolved under very dirty conditions and maybe this desire to keep our environment and our behaviours sterile isn’t actually working to our advantage.”
And Dr. Meg Lemon, a US dermatologist specialising in allergies and autoimmune disorders, recently added weight to Napper’s out-there hypothesis. Chatting to the New York Times this month, she said: “You should not only pick your nose, you should eat it. Our immune system needs a job, we evolved over millions of years to have our immune systems under constant assault. Now they don’t have anything to do.”
A study published last year in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology (and co-authored by Napper, a man who digs his boogs) also concluded that snot can help prevent bacteria from sticking to teeth. It proposed creating a “mucus toothpaste”, which is possibly the nastiest combination of two words conceivable – but if it works, it works.
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to imagine a government health campaign based around encouraging people to chow down on the contents of their noses, or Colgate unveiling a new bogey-flavoured toothpaste.
My niece is incredibly clever, but is currently going through a mining-for-morsels phase that is remarkably upsetting. I’m pretty sure the only reason my daughter doesn’t do it is that she hasn’t worked out how yet (she’s 20 months) – and any week now she’ll be beaming, filling her mouth with rubbery bloblets of snot, and I’ll start being sick in my mouth on a daily basis.
But some parents are apparently on board: a colleague says his dad used to suck snot out of his nose when he was little – partly for those apparent health benefits but also, he says, because he enjoyed it. And sometimes, you may eat it against your will – a friend of mine was pushing his newborn through a shop, and when the baby sneezed and blasted snot everywhere, he – overwhelmed and frazzled – panicked and ate it.
What do I know? Maybe we should turn a blind eye next time our kids go digging for gold, and if nobody’s looking, and there’s a really good one in there... chow down.