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The human nose is many things. A key part of the olfactory system and filter to our lungs just to name a couple. They can be big or small, round or pointy and they are one of the most fascinating parts of our face. We don’t usually pay them any mind, but our noses are more than just the lump of cartilage we think they are.
Here are ten fun facts about your nose we bet you’ve never heard. Some are scientific and others make no scents at all.
1. A rose by any other name…
Your sense of smell is an amazing thing. We smell when signals to the brain are delivered through the olfactory nerve. Our brains contain other things, like memories. So when you smell a scent that triggers a memory, it’s no coincidence.
Your olfactory nerve is carrying the information directly into your brain and it interacts there to trigger a response. Whether that response is a memory, aversion or attraction is a matter of who’s doing the sniffing.
2. Too many smells!
It turns out we can smell much better than we can see or taste. Folks over at the Monell Center for taste and smell have determined that humans have over 400 different olfactory receptors. They can form near limitless combinations in how we experience and feel smells. By comparison we have about 40 sensors to taste and just four to perceive colour in vision. Yikes.
3. Deep breaths.
In the average adult it’s estimated that about 20,000 litres of air pass through the nose every day! The nose is what processes this air constantly, doing an excellent job unless affected by the sinuses.
The nose also filters particles entering the airways down to the tiniest size. It regulates the temperature of inhaled breath to match your internal thermometer. It also makes sure that moisture makes its way to the lining in your lungs so that they don’t get dry.
4. It’s very statuesque.
5. This smell makes me happy. This one makes me sleepy.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils, absolutes and infusions from flowers and plants to elicit a physical or mental response in patients. Depending on the properties of an oil the smell can travel along your olfactory nerve to trigger reactions like alertness, relaxation or even concentration in the brain.
6. This tastes funny.
Our noses actually contribute quite a bit to how we perceive taste. As mentioned above we only have 40 sensors with which to analyze taste. Most of the time our nose is adding information to our brain, forming a picture. Want to see how? Eat something and savour the taste. Now try again with your nose plugged.
7. What’s that called?
The space in between your nostrils is called the septum. This thin wall of cartilage is sometimes pierced for aesthetic reasons. Due to trauma or from birth some people have a deviated septum, which doesn’t separate the nostrils in a straight line. Certain things can alter the structure or even dissolve the septum like nasal polyps, sinus infections, drug use and chemicals!
8. It keeps going, and growing.
Your nose will continue to grow as you age. It reaches its main shape by the age of 19 but from then on it will lengthen slowly and more noticeably droop downwards. The droop isn’t due to growth, but rather gravity.
9. Sir, do you know how fast you were going?
The abrupt expulsion of air we produce when we’re allergic to something or sick is usually caused by foreign particles bugging our mucosa. About 40,000 droplets are blasted from our nostrils and mouth when we sneeze at a speed of up to 300 miles per hour. This can travel over five feet in front of us!
10. You’re all sticky!
Our noses work hard to keep us healthy but they do a messy job. Mucus is produced to protect our lungs from airborne bacteria and viruses. How much mucus is made? Up to a litre a day and it doubles when we’re sick! That isn’t even the gross part – you swallow most of it. Your nose can’t run on autopilot all the time though and it’s important to ask a pro when your sinuses or breathing start to feel off.
As unbelievable as it may sound the nose has many more interesting functions and features than what’s listed above. A lot of these discoveries are recent and all entertaining trivia aside, I’m sure as time goes on we’ll learn how much more vital our nose and sinuses are to our wellbeing. It’s fun to speculate at how the future will change our understanding of it but really, we’re just guessing. At the end of the day who nose?