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What Causes Boogers?

written by: •edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 7/22/2010

They fascinate children almost everywhere, and during our lifetimes our noses will produce thousands of them from the gallons of mucus we pump out. But what causes boogers and just what are boogers?

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    What are Boogers and What Causes Boogers?

    Everybody gets boogers, and just as well too, as they are formed from a substance that performs a vital job in the body.

    It all starts with mucus, the sticky, slimy and viscous liquid that's made by the mucus membranes inside your nose. A more colloquial name for mucus is snot. And it's part of your body's front line defence system against infection.

    Mucus is an effective barrier that prevents your lungs from getting damaged. Every time you breathe in through your nose you draw in a myriad of tiny particles including dust, dirt, pollen, bacteria, and viruses. If they were to reach your lungs they could cause irritation, infection, and possibly serious damage. But the mucus surrounds these small foreign bodies and stops them from getting to places that could cause you harm.

    So what do boogers have to do with all this? Well, boogers are nothing more than dried out clumps of mucus containing all these small particles.

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    The Sticky Stuff

    Mucus is mostly made of water and a polysaccharide called mucin which makes the liquid sticky. Other substances are also present including enzymes, co-enzymes and antibodies which kick start the immune system into action. And about a quarter of a litre of 'snot' is produced everyday - more if you have a cold as you need to get rid of more germs.

    Mucus tends to start off as a clear or white liquid, but it can be coloured by dirt, debris, cigarette tar, and enzymes that are responsible for the production of antiseptic chemicals that fight germs.

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    Where do Boogers Go?

    The tiny hairs lining your nose called cilia move mucus out of the nasal cavity, where it is eventually swallowed. This is to make room for fresh mucus to catch more germs and debris. Cilia also moves mucus and boogers to the front of the nose, where most people reckon they should come out on a tissue. Though, some insist on a finger.

    But there's good reason not to have a pick as boogers are full of germs, and the action can make your nose bleed.