We all have some annoying habits and chances are you may even have one or two that are gross, but did you know they could also be potential health hazards? Chances are if you are showing off this habit, say picking your nose or biting your nails in public, someone has told you, “That’s gross, don’t do that!” But have you ever stopped to wonder if those “gross” habits are really unhealthy or just annoying to others? Well, wonder no more! Today we will take a look at some of the grossest habits and see if they really pose any harm.


Picking your nose is something most people turn their nose up at but that’s not to say people aren’t still doing it. In fact, Wikipedia surveyed 1000 people about this habit, and out of all their respondents found, “91% said they were current nose-pickers (but only 75% of these believed everyone did it), and two respondents claimed to spend between 15 and 30 minutes and between one and two hours a day picking their noses.” WOW! That’s a lot of picking. So if so many people are doing it is it ok? Absolutely not.  Dr. Erich Voigt, an otolaryngologist at New York University, explains what happens inside your nose when you pick it. “As you mine for nose gold, your fingernails cause tiny abrasions in your nasal cavity. Those abrasions bleed, and your blood becomes food for all of the germs that live in there. Germs like Staphylococcus aureus, a common cause of skin infections like abscesses, respiratory infections such as sinusitis, and food poisoning.” So not only can you spread those from your hands to your nose but also from your nose to your hands and then anything else you touch. Next time you have an itch or need to do anything up there, grab a tissue and always wash your hands afterward. Verdict: Don’t pick your nose!


Ever find your nails making their way to your mouth? Maybe you bite them when you are nervous, or it is something you do in your car waiting in traffic. Could this simple act carry complicated concerns? Yes! Biting your nails is an open invitation to take any germs from your hands (think of all things you touch in a day!) and put them into your mouth and directly making yourself susceptible to all sorts of infections and issues. It can also put your nail and nailbed at risk too.  Rochelle Torgerson, M.D., Ph.D., a dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic said you can, “end up with redness and swelling and pain and discomfort — that’s a sign of infection.” From infecting your hands and dealing with hurting hands all day from adding to a variety of infections and viruses to the body, biting your nails is a no-no. Verdict: Don’t bite your nails.


See a pen cap and just want to chew it? Find yourself chewing on pens or pencils while on the phone, bored, or in meetings? Well, it’s a no-brainer now that we know items we put in our mouths are covered in threatening germs, so there is that risk. But did you know that it really is bad for your teeth? According to www.dental.net, “…You could be causing irreparable damage to your teeth. In addition to causing stress fractures on your teeth, you could be irritating your joints and chewing muscles. Don’t try to break your habit by chewing ice or hard candy! These are just as damaging as chewing pencils.” There you have it, from causing the spread of infections and diseases that may be lingering on whatever you are chewing to then causing irreparable damage to your teeth, it’s just not worth it. Verdict: Don’t chew on pens, pencils, or excessively on any hard foods.


The facts are in folks. Those gross and annoying habits are also huge health concerns! It’s time to try to break those dangerous habits and maybe even replace them with healthy ones. Try drinking water when you get the urge to chew your nails or pens, or whatever you shouldn’t. Carry a small pack of tissues for times when you just need to touch your nose or face. Lastly, if we learned anything, keep washing your hands especially before you touch your face, nose, or eat food. Remember how quickly we learned during Covid that people just weren’t washing their hands nearly enough? So, whether it’s your mom, spouse, or a friend begging you to stop, you should listen up about those gross habits and maybe, just don’t do that.


Mary Hoadley

Director of The Wellness Center