27 March 2006

Your nose

So you often get clouted over the head for being a Nosy Parker. But poking your nose into other people’s business is not the primary function of the protrusion on your face.

So you often get clouted over the head for being a Nosy Parker. But poking your nose into other people’s business is not the primary function of the protrusion on your face.

In fact, your nose is like your own built-in air conditioner, and best of all, it contributes largely towards your appearance.

So how does it work?
Situated at the centre of your face, your nose gives you the ability to smell. Besides sniffing away, your nose conditions air before it enters your lungs. You might find the tiny hairs in your nostrils irritating and too long, but they are there for a reason. Known as cilia, they protect your respiratory system from becoming clogged up with dust, by catching it as you inhale.

Besides catching dust, blood vessels in your nasal cavity warm or humidify air to the correct conditions favoured by your lungs. Think about the task it’s up against – it might be a freezing Free State morning or a boiling day in the Kalahari.

Although not by itself the thing which enables you to smell, your nose serves as a receiver for your olfactory system (where smell is interpreted), situated in the brain. It is sort of like a satellite television system in which your nose is the satellite dish and your brain is the decoder. Situated inside your nose, on the outer surface of your nasal cavity, are the olfactory epithelial tissue and the olfactory nerve. When odour molecules pass over nerve fibres in your nose, olfactory receptor neurons convert the smell into an electrical impulse, sending it off to the brain to decode.

Pick 'em, lick 'em, roll 'em, flick 'em
So you know someone who picks his or her nose. Or perhaps you do yourself. Did you know that compulsive nose picking is known as rhinotillexomania. Well anyway, it is a very common habit amongst many, often seen as taboo amongst Western or East Asian cultures. Picking your nose can be risky if you are prone to nosebleeds and therefore it is best to use a tissue or hanky.

Then you get those brave one's who treat their snot (formally known as mucus) as a delicacy. This habit contains the same risks as nose picking, and perhaps more. Although some say it is good to pick your nose as your finger can reach further than a tissue, and in turn keep your nose cleaner. Others say eating snot is a good boost for your immune system as you are consuming mucus that is rich in bacteria.

What does snot actually do?
Sometimes slimy, sometimes grimy, sometimes as hard as a rock, but in the beginning mucus is a clear, slippery secretion that prevents your bodily tissues from drying out. Mucus also assists the hairs in your nose in capturing dust particles. The hairs will initially catch the dust, but mucus will then dry around the dust, almost encapsulating it so that it cannot reach the lungs.

Nose issues?
Nosebleeds are common amongst those who have suffered trauma, are on medication, have been exposed to dry air, suffer with hay fever or high blood pressure, blow their nose too hard, and yes, those ones who can't stop picking. Nosebleeds can usually be treated effectively at home, but if they persist, a doctor should be contacted as soon as possible.

Those who suffer with a constant runny nose could be suffering from an allergy, a common cold, or flu. Many times an increased secretion of mucus can cause problems with breathing. One must remember, though, that it is normal for your nose and throat to have some mucus present. If you have too much mucus hanging around in your nose or throat, grab a tissue or a hanky. Or if it's really bad, see a doctor.

Interesting facts

  • Because the nose is so close to the brain, it is possible for infections to spread to your brain. Many doctors classify the area from the corners of your mouth to the top of your nose as the danger triangle
  • When you sneeze, up to 5 000 bacteria are released into the air if you do not cover your mouth and nose. People sneeze because of an irritation to the sinuses, either from dust, pollen, or other particles. Do everyone a favour and cover up next time
  • Your nose can mistake certain things for nasal irritants. These include strong odours, sudden chills, and yes, even orgasms.
  • It is almost impossible to keep your eyes open when you sneeze because your nose and eyes share similar nerves that respond to more or less the same stimuli. However, some manage to keep their eyes open when they sneeze. How? Ask them
  • In some countries such as Hungary, a sneeze is interpreted as confirmation by God that something is the truth. The Japanese take sneezing as a sign that someone is gossiping about you

(Matthew Louw, Health24)



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