Why does your nose run when it’s cold?

The Nose: A built-in humidifier

When I was walking my dog this weekend, my nose started to run.  That got me to wondering why this occurs.  Why does your nose run when it’s cold?

It turns out that this is a good thing.  Your nose is your own personal built in humidifier.   Its job, in addition to odor detection, is to warm and add moisture to the air you breathe before it gets to your lungs.  You inhale the cold, dry air on a wintry day and your nose automatically starts producing fluids to protect your lungs.  Sometimes the nose does a really good job of producing that moisture and the excess drips out.

Another factor in a drippy nose is condensation.  Have you ever been out on a really cold day and seen your breath?  That’s the result of your warm breath hitting the cold air and forming condensation or water droplets.  The same thing happens with your nose.  You breathe warm air out your nose.  It hits the cold air and drips start happening.

If you want to avoid the whole drippy nose thing, try wearing a scarf over your nose and mouth.  Air breathed through a scarf is warmer and moister and will cut down on the drips.

And, if you’re in need of some nose humor:  If your nose runs, and your feet smell, you’re built upside down!

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

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