You know you do it?

Whether you're in the trusted company of your spouse, or sneaking a quick one, we all pick our noses. The other primate do it as well.

There is a lot of social stigma surrounding nose picking. Is it true that we should be doing it and what should we do with our boogers?

We're scientists who have studied the environmental contaminants in our homes, our workplace, our gardens and so we have some insight on what you're really jamming up there.

You need to know what to look for.

What is in a booger?

Children who have not yet learned social norms know that the fit between their forefinger and nostril is pretty good, which is why they pick nose. There's more than that up there.

The booger-forming mucus up there forms a critical biological filter to capture dust and allergens before they enter our airways, where they may cause inflammation, asthma, and other long-term pulmonary issues.

Cells in your nose called goblet cells are named after their cup-like appearance, and they produce mucus to trap harmful particles.

The body's immune defence system is made up of mucus and its components.

The nose has its own collection of flora and fauna. Natural populations can be disturbed and that can lead to conditions like rhinitis. Our nose microbes fight invaders on a mucus battlefield.

As mucus drips down your throat, it contains dust, microbes and allergens.

It can increase environmental exposure to some pollutants.

Lead enters children's bodies most efficiently through ingestion and digestion.

If you sniff or eat boogers instead of blowing them out, you could make the environment worse.

What does the science say about the risks of booger-mining?

A variety of mild to severe infections can be caused by Golden Staph. It's found in the nose in studies.

There was one study.

Nose picking is associated with S. aureus nasal carriage. The role of nose picking in nasal carriage may well be causal in certain cases. Overcoming the habit of nose picking may aid S. aureus decolonization strategies.

There is an increased risk of Golden Staph transmission to wounds if nose picking is done.

Antibiotics don't always work on Golden Staph. The paper noted was one.

growing antibiotic resistance calls for health care providers to assess patients' nose picking habits and educate them on effective ways to prevent finger-to-nose practices.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is a common cause of pneumonia and nose picking could be used to transmit it.

It's a good idea to stick a digit in your nose to keep germs out of your body.

There's a risk of getting a bug into your body from the nose. rhinotillexomania is a problem of nose picking to the point of self harm.

Well, I picked. Now what?

The term mucophagy refers to people eating them. Booger eating being disgusting is not the only thing it means to ingest.

They are wiped on the nearest item, a gift to be found later. It's a good way to spread germs.

Some people use a tissue to retrieve it, and then throw it in a bin or toilet.

If you have to pick your nose, that's probably the least bad option. If you blow or dig in your nose, you should make sure to wash your hands with soap and water.

No advice in the world will keep you from digging away

We all do it in secret. It's so satisfying.

Let's remember that our remarkable noses, mucus and sinuses are trying hard to protect you, and that's why they're doing so much work.

Don't make it hard for your snoz to keep you healthy by jamming your fingers up there. Don't be a grub, blow quietly, dispose of the tissue thoughtfully and wash hands afterwards.

Gabriel Filippelli is the Chancellor's Professor of Earth Sciences and Executive Director of the Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute.

Under a Creative Commons license, this article is re-posted. The original article is worth a read.