If you've found your way to this article, chances are you've got a problem. A dry, crusty one sitting on the inside of your nose that can't be ignored.
We're talking, of course, about deep boogers — those hard, scabby bits of gunk that practically require surgery to remove. OK, just kidding about the surgery part. Still, deep boogers can be annoying, uncomfortable and hard to get out of your nose, especially if you've committed to steering clear of picking. (Which, hopefully, you have!)
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We chatted with an ear, nose, and throat doctor for advice on how to remove deep boogers safely and painlessly, plus where they come from and how to keep them from coming back.
How Do Boogers Form?
Though it might be a little gross to think about, our noses are basically booger factories that are working 24/7. And that's a good thing.
Boogers start off as mucus, the slimy gook that lines our nasal passages. The main job of this sticky stuff is to trap irritants like dirt, dust, pollen and germs and prevent them from entering our airways, making it easier to breathe and reducing our risk for infection, according to Nemours.
So, how does mucus turn into a crusty booger? "If the lining of the nose becomes dry, mucus production is disrupted and can accumulate on a more adherent area," explains Kathleen Kelly, MD, an otolaryngologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
What Causes Deep Boogers?
Boogers can form anywhere in your nasal passageway — near the edge of your nostril or higher up. No matter the location, those hard, crusty pieces simply develop when the mucus in your nasal lining dries out, Dr. Kelly explains. "It's normal from time to time," she says.
But it's more likely to happen in the winter, when you're exposed to dry air. In some cases, dried nasal mucus can also form as a protective barrier to help your nasal lining heal, like after a nosebleed, Dr. Kelly says.
How to Remove Deep Boogers
Deep boogers can be annoying at best and downright uncomfortable at worst. And once you notice one, the urge to pick it out can be hard to ignore. But you should resist the urge to go digging up there. Picking could scratch the lining of your nose and make it bleed, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It's an easy way to spread and transmit germs too, including nasty ones like pneumonia-causing bacteria, according to October 2018 research in the European Respiratory Journal.
Simply blowing your nose with a tissue is a safer, more hygenic bet, says Dr. Kelly. If the booger won't budge, you'll need to take measures to carefully dislodge it from your nasal lining. Fortunately, this is easier than it sounds. "The next best step would be to use saline irrigation to try to soften the crusts so they can be blown out," Dr. Kelly says.
You can buy a nasal saline rinse or spray over-the-counter: Try Arm & Hammer Simply Saline Nasal Mist ($7.29, Amazon.com) or NeilMed SinuFlo Ready Rinse ($8.75, Amazon.com). Or you can make your own rinse using distilled water or water that has been boiled for 3 to 5 minutes and cooled until lukewarm, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
There are other ways to loosen up those stuck-on crusts too. You can run a hot shower and inhale the steam, or bend over a bowl with very hot water with a towel over your head to create a mini steam bath, per Harvard Health Publishing. Or try applying a warm, moist washcloth to your nose for a few minutes, recommends the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
To recap, this is how you remove deep boogers:
- First, try blowing your nose into a tissue.
- If the boogers stay in place, soften them up by using a nasal rinse, inhaling steam or pressing a warm washcloth to your nose for a few minutes.
- Then, try blowing your nose again.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 as needed until the boogers are gone.
How to Prevent Deep Boogers
The occasional deep booger is par for the course, especially in winter. But ensuring that your nasal lining stays hydrated can keep the dry, crusty bits to a minimum, Dr. Kelly says. Here's how:
- Make the air moist: If your indoor air tends to get dry in the winter months, run a humidifier in your bedroom to add moisture to the air.
- Drink plenty of water: Adequate liquid helps the mucus in your nose stay loose, according Harvard Health Publishing.
When to Call a Doctor
Getting deep booger once in a while isn't cause for concern. But if you seem to get them all the time, pay attention.
"You should see a doctor if your nasal crusting is not improving with saline or if you feel that it is preventing you from being able to breathe," Dr. Kelly says.
In rare cases, excessive crusty boogers could be a sign of an underlying health problem, like an autoimmune disease.
- The Nemours Foundation: "What's a Booger?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Nosebleeds (Epistaxis)"
- European Respiratory Journal: "Hands are vehicles for transmission of Streptococcus pneumoniae in novel controlled human infection study"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Is Rinsing Your Sinuses With Neti Pots Safe?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "What to do about sinusitis"
- National Institutes of Health: "Marvels of Mucus and Phlegm"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.