Your nose is most famous for helping you enjoy the aroma of freshly cut grass and steaming bread right out of the oven, but this prominent facial feature does so much more than allow the pleasure of scent: The nose also has some important jobs for your overall health.
1. Your nose helps keep your lungs healthy.
You know you have a lot of, um, gunk in your nose, but all that gunk is evidence that your nose is doing its job. Within your sniffer contains several features that help filter the air you breathe, with the goal of keeping harmful irritants out of your lungs.
For starters, there’s the mucous membrane. This is a thin and moist lining in the nose with multiple roles. The mucous membrane traps dust and small particles that you breathe, but it also acts as a natural humidifier, since the lungs prefer warmer, moistened air. When combined with debris, this mucus can form boogers.
Additionally, your nose contains little hairs that can trap even bigger particles. Considering all these harmful invaders being trapped in your nose, you can imagine why picking your nose is so unsanitary.
2. Your nose helps you enjoy food.
Your taste buds are only a fraction of the reason food tastes so good. In fact, much of your sense of flavor actually comes from your schnoz.
While your tongue may be able to detect bitterness from a broccoli spear, your nose actually picks up on the scent of the broccoli as it travels down your throat, providing a much more nuanced flavor experience. That’s why food tastes “blah” when you’re congested, or when you plug your nose. (Here are reasons your nose is stuffed all the time.)
How does this affect health? Finding pleasure in food helps make sure you’re eating enough. People who lose their sense of smell often lose their enjoyment of food, and it can be a challenge to get enough to eat. It can also be a challenge to get a variety of healthy, nutritious foods, since people who less their sense of smell may instead turn to foods with pleasant textures, like fried foods and chips.
3. Your nose helps you detect threats.
Like all your senses, your sense of smell can be important in keeping you safe from harm. Smell receptors send info to the brain, where the message is interpreted so you can react appropriately to protect yourself and others.
Food burning? Gas leak? Dirty diaper? These are all problems your sniffer detects first.
Next time your nose is unpleasantly stuffed up, don’t forget all the ways your snout keeps you healthy and happy.