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

I Brake for Allergens

Next up on the agenda: a nature hike. Man, this beats stale office air any day. The Body agrees. “Do you smell that?” she asks her hubby. “Huh,” he responds ambiguously. Clearly, he’s not as jazzed by the orange blossoms. It’s not that he’s bored. Women have a keener sense of smell, and odor affects them in more emotional ways. Let’s just say men prefer visual stimuli.

Look out, incoming! Caught that debris right in my microscopic hairs, called cilia. Oh, no, it’s ragweed! In a few seconds, the Body is going to be cursing me for causing trouble in paradise. She’s got allergies, which means I’ve got trigger-happy patrollers in my mucus. When they sense a troublemaker (hey, you try telling them pollen is harmless), they instruct immune cells to pounce. Their weapon of choice? Histamine, a chemical that can have an effect similar to that of tear gas. Argh! I’m flooding with watery secretions in an attempt to clear the premises. Sure, the Body can’t breathe very well, but if the invader was a more serious threat, like a virus, I’d be doing her a favor. As the Body asks for tissues, I want to shout, Don’t pinch me shut! I hate when she tries to repress a sneeze. Doesn’t she realize it’s an eject button for those irritating buggers? Way to undo all of my hard work. I get it: Allergies are not very sexy. But it’s the immune system’s fault, not mine. And if we’re going to be pointing fingers, she should blame herself for forgetting allergy meds.

My Amazing Memory

Finally, it’s dinnertime. While the Body peruses the menu, I detect a familiar scent from someone walking by. It’s been decades, but I’d know that smell anywhere: the cologne her high school crush wore. The Body smiles wistfully at the memory it triggers. Smell is an emotional time machine: I may be able to tell you the instant I first sniffed a smell—and the Body may even recall the emotions that went with it.

My stellar odor-detecting abilities also stimulate another type of appetite—wink, wink. Try as humans might to cover up their odors, a woman chooses a mate in part by his aroma. A man’s armpits emit a lot of information—namely, whether his genes are a good match for hers. And the Body’s hubby smells darn attractive tonight. Back to the hotel room for some romance.

With my matchmaking done for the evening, the Body is ready to snooze. But the moment her head hits the pillow, I feel pressure start to build. The Body thinks it’s an evil trick I play on her—getting clogged just as she is trying to doze off—but there’s nothing I can do about gravity. If she slept standing up, like a horse, the blood vessels in her nose wouldn’t swell so much and congest me. She’s also allergic to dust, and these pillows are rife with it.

Man, she’ll keep all of us awake tonight with that snoring. Mouth breathers are the worst bedmates! But the Body’s hubby seems to take it in stride. I can’t say the same for myself, standing by idly while the mouth does my job. But in the spirit of vacation, I’ll try to be forgiving—as long as she gets me allergy medicine tomorrow … and orders extra bacon.

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