Many of my lessons here at LSNED are inspired by random curiosity. Yesterday the thought came to me, as I was standing outside in my wool jacket, scarf, mittens, and toque… why does my nose run when it’s cold? Being that November is an ideal month for general nose awareness, I thought it appropriate to pass on what I learned about snot.
Snot, or more technically accurate (but not as fun) “mucus”, is produced inside your nose and sinuses as a first line defence against germs and dust in the air. It works like fly-paper, basically, as particles will stick in the goop before it gets inhaled into your lungs where it could cause more serious trouble. You produce about a quart of mucus every day. Or a litre, for you metrically-inclined. That’s a full bottle of snot every day. Gross.
As for why it might be dripping out your nose, it could be one of many reasons. Of course, when we’re sick with a flu or cold our mucus production goes into overdrive making more than the usual daily quota. It can overfill your sinuses, causing you to get stuffed up, and we all know it runs out your nose like a gooey waterfall. It’s working extra hard to prevent those airborne germs from coming in and getting you doubly sick.
If you have allergies to pet hair, or pollen, or anything else it can cause a runny nose. Allergies are caused when your body interprets something, like dog hair, as a germ and it reacts the same as if you were sick. Again, turning on the snot faucet.
When you cry (and we already learned the health benefits of crying) you get a runny nose, but it has nothing to do with sickness or germs. In that case, the tears produced in your eyes also drain into your sinuses, mixing with the mucus, and making things all runny.
Lastly, the answer to my pondering, when it’s cold outside your body turns on your nose heater so as to warm up the incoming air before it hits your lungs. As the flow increases to the blood vessels in the nose, that triggers more mucus production and the overflow starts on it’s epic journey south causing the traditional Canadian greeting: “(sniff) Hi, (sniff – sniff) it sure is (sniff) cold out there! (sniff)”