A Day in the Life of Your Nose

One salacious schnoz explains how she’s much more than a messy mucus maker.

By Jill Provost from Reader's Digest Magazine | August 2013

A Day in the Life of Your NoseSerge Bloch for Reader's Digest

It’s 7 a.m., and from the plush bed of a beautiful resort, I just rousted the Body and her husband with a loud snort. It’s a rude awakening for such an idyllic setting, but it’s as dry as dust in here, and the hotel room is freezing. The combination sucks the moisture out of the air and clogs me up. If only she’d get me a humidifier or some saline spray, I’d behave better.

The Best Part of My Day

Today, we’re on vacation, a romantic getaway for the Body and her hubby. Or that’s the goal, which is why she wants to quit the mouth-breathing. The Body tosses back the covers and heads for the most blissful spot on earth: the shower. Ah, sweet relief! There’s nothing better than breathing this warm, moist air. My passages are open, and I can smell again.

Just in the nick of time too. The Body’s next stop is the hotel dining room. It’s been 12 hours since she last ate, and as soon as the aromatic molecules of Belgian waffles and coffee hit my smell-detecting neurons, I tell the brain to send the Body a message: “Honey, you’re starving.”

If she hadn’t been able to unclog me, this meal would have been as enjoyable as an amusement park during a power outage. She can thank her taste buds all she wants for conveying the delicious flavors of maple syrup and bacon, but I know a dirty little secret: Taste buds can decipher only the most basic notes, like salty, sweet, and sour.

Every other flavor that makes the Body salivate (or recoil in disgust) is conducted by yours truly. When the food’s aroma wafts up the back of the throat after the Body swallows, it tickles my smell receptors, and voilà: She can tell the difference between strawberry and cherry.

My Most Important Job

The Body probably thinks I’m only here so she can smell the roses. But I’m really a Secret Service agent for the lungs. You see, the Body inhales more than 2,500 gallons of air a day, and someone’s got to make sure it’s up to snuff. First, I warm and humidify the inhaled air so it doesn’t shock or dry out the lungs. Second, I use my mucus to nab all kinds of villains, from pollution to viruses. I produce a quart of the stuff a day and send it all down your gullet to your stomach, where acid kills nearly everything trapped in it.

My nasal passages, by the way, aren’t just cavernous holes that suck in air like straws; they are lined with thick bumps of bone called turbinates. The bumps regulate and slow down airflow, which gives me more time to condition the inhaled air to body temperature and to humidify it with watery secretions (not mucus—a different fluid).

No other creature has a nose quite like me. My unique external shape helps keep the Body’s lungs cool and hydrated in the midday sun. Thanks to moi, the Body’s ancestors could hunt and gather in the heat, outlasting all those antelope. Now I just help her take long walks in the summer sun without hurting her lungs.

And you humans want to go nipping and tucking this evolutionary wonder? Don’t cut off your nose to spite your lungs, buddy.

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