A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Kids do the darndest (and grossest) things

Illustration - Kid picking his nose - Is eating boogers safe?

Kids do plenty of things that make us say “ew.” Thankfully, for the most part, these unseemly activities pose little or no health risk.

Kids do gross things. It’s a fact of life. Thankfully, many of these stomach-turning situations pose little or no health risk for your child.

Digging for gold

“Sticking your finger in your nose is universal, and it starts very young,” said Dr. Keith Pulvermacher, a pediatrician with Marshfield Clinic.

Every day, Dr. Pulvermacher sees kids spelunking their schnozes for hidden treasure and eating the hard-won prize.

“It usually happens with that younger age group that doesn’t have full self-awareness yet,” Dr. Pulvermacher said. He said there is an unproven hypothesis that kids sticking their fingers in their mouths may actually help with developing their immune system.

Dr. Pulvermacher said mining for boogers and eating them poses no more health risk than when kids stick their fingers in their mouths. Playing with food is similar to the booger issue. All kids do it, and it’s not a significant health risk.

Fingers in unmentionable places

Let’s be real, sometimes kids stick their fingers in their butts. As parents, we’ve seen it and scolded, but it keeps happening.

Kids transitioning out of diapers tend be the ones most prone to this form of unsavory exploration. Hands can become contaminated with fecal material, which poses a health risk. It is possible to contract dangerous forms of E. Coli from contact with fecal matter.

Eating Play-Doh

Play-Doh is non-toxic and eating small amounts of it is harmless, Dr. Pulvermacher said.

Peeing in pools

“In all normal circumstances, there is no harm in your kid peeing in a pool,” Dr. Pulvermacher said. “Being in a pool with urine is not a health risk either.”

Urine, he said, is sterile and typically not a health risk for passing on illness. So while there may be nothing more horrifying than passing through a suspicious warm spot in a public pool, there is no medical reason to worry.

Not washing hands

Washing hands is probably the number one thing we can do to prevent illness,” Dr. Pulvermacher said. “It’s a huge boon to you and your kids’ health to wash hands thoroughly.”

While washing hands with soap and water appears preferable to just using hand sanitizer, both are good habits to adopt. You and your children can use sanitizers in addition to hand washing as a good supplement.

In summary, kids do gross things, and for the most part, that’s just fine.

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