Q. “What’s the difference between bogies and Brussels sprouts?” A. “You can’t get children to eat Brussels sprouts!”
Are there actually any children (some adults too!) that haven’t eaten bogies at some time in their lives? Other primates can be observed doing this too. If you think about it, many animals show behaviour similar to this – cleaning themselves with their tongues and having the ability to lick their noses. If they weren’t supposed to do it, their tongues would be much shorter! But what use can this behaviour possible have? If it is instinctive behaviour – whatever it is – you can be sure it serves a purpose in the nature of things. Eating bogies is no exception. As adults, we try to stop children from doing it because we have, over our years to adulthood, developed an acute sense of the “yuk factor”. You can now be officially more relaxed about this!
When we breathe, the air that reaches our lungs must be clean, warm and moist in order for the oxygen to be properly transferred from the lungs to the blood stream. The lining of the airways contains cells called “goblet” cells. These cells specifically produce mucus which cleans the air passing through by trapping dust particles, some bacteria and viruses. When the mucus is loaded with these substances, it becomes drier and we may have the urge to blow our noses – or in some cases, pick our noses! You might think that if this stuff isn’t good for our lungs that it wouldn’t be good in our stomachs either, but you’d be wrong. The gut has a very different environment to the lungs and is perfectly equipped to deal with it. No one ever became ill from eating bogies that I am aware of!
The fact that from day one of their lives, children are building their immune systems This is vital to their future health. It is quite possible (from current research findings) that good immunity holds the secret to long and healthy lives without the misery of chronic illnesses. Immunity is built in a variety of ways; initially from the mother, others that handle the baby, foods eaten, crawling around the floor, playing with other children, making mud-pies, contact with people who have colds, flu and other infections and eating bogies! It may not be a requirement for future health but it is another way to ensure that a child has plenty of exposure to microbes in the environment. This in turn allows for antibodies to be manufactured and stored for a time in the future when their immune systems take a battering from infections. It can make the difference between a couple of days with a sore throat or a week in bed with the flu.
It is also true that exposure to a bit of dirt during childhood, prevents many allergies in the future. My grandmother used to say “you have to eat a bucket of earth during your lifetime”. I think she was right but may I suggest that you don’t do it all in one go?