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Your Nose: The Ultimate Air Cleaner
On February 4, 2009 @ 7:24 am In All Articles,Allergy Basics,Sinus Infections
Your nose does more than just decorate your face. Inside, you’re carrying around a personal air treatment system, cleverly designed to protect the delicate tissues of your lungs that transfer oxygen out of the air you breathe and into your body.
Whether classically bold or cutely upturned, your nose
This marvelous system is portable, durable – usually fairly quiet – and never needs batteries!
But it does require some maintenance to keep it working at peak efficiency.
What’s Up Your Nose?
When you breathe through your nose, the air goes past your nostrils into an open area inside your head called the nasal cavity before heading down your trachea and into your lungs through your windpipe.
The whole system of airways is lined with a thin layer of sticky mucus that traps dust particles, bacteria and other pollutants. Tiny hairs called cilia sweep mucus from your nasal cavity into the back of your throat where it can be swallowed and neutralized in your stomach. More mucus is constantly being produced (2-4 cups per day) and the cycle goes on.
An intricate network of blood vessels takes care of the heating and humidifying work. Folds of tissue (called turbinates) inside your nasal cavity provide a huge surface area of blood vessels that warm the air to body temperature and add moisture within seconds.
Meddling With Mucus
Mucus must have just the right balance of stickiness and fluidity for the filtering process to work efficiently. Allergic reactions and infections can disrupt this balance, and dry air, irritating chemicals and secondhand smoke tip the scales even more.
Allergens and infections alert your immune system to send extra blood cells to the lining of your nasal passages, making them swollen and inflamed (congested). At the same time, your nose produces extra mucus. This can overwhelm the cilia’s ability to clean things out – and leave you with a stuffed-up or runny nose.
Strong scents and chemicals (such as those in tobacco smoke) can affect how well the cilia in your nasal cavity work, also causing mucus to build up.
A dry nose also has trouble moving mucus effectively. When the air you breathe is very dry (especially cold winter air), it may pull more moisture than usual from your nose. The resulting dried out nasal passages and thickened mucus will be less able to sweep out germs, leaving you more susceptible to disease.
Breathing through your mouth instead of your nose – because your nose is congested, perhaps, or during vigorous exercise – bypasses much of your body’s natural air filtering and treatment. This can allow germs, allergens and other pollutants to get inside your lungs, where they can damage
It also allows unconditioned air to affect sensitive small airways. For example, drawing cold air into your lungs without letting your nose warm it up first has a twofold effect:
A Cold in the Nose
A “cold” is a viral infection in the lining of your nasal passages. You may pick up the germs by touching contaminated surfaces with your hands then touching your nose or eyes or by being exposed to germs from someone’s cough or sneeze. When your nose is working efficiently, cold viruses are swept out of the nasal passages in your mucus. When it’s not, they can sit in your
nose and make their way into your nasal tissue, causing infection.
Because the connection between the nose and lungs is so important, keeping your nose healthy can help reduce problems in the lungs such as asthma symptoms. Sensitive airways already compromised by underlying inflammation are primed and ready to react when exposed to allergens, irritants, excess mucus or cold air.
How To Maintain a Healthy Nose
Although you can’t always control the temperature or contents of the air you breathe, you can take steps to keep your nose as healthy as possible by following these tips:
Article printed from Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics: http://www.aanma.org
URL to article: http://www.aanma.org/2009/02/your-nose-the-ultimate-air-cleaner/
URLs in this post:
 News for Your Nose: Nasal Corticosteroids: http://www.aanma.org/2009/03/news-for-your-nose-nasal-corticosteroids/
 It’s Not ALL in Your Head: http://www.aanma.org/2009/02/not-all-in-your-head/
 What’s Behind That Wheeze?: http://www.aanma.org/2009/02/whatsbehind/
 Nasal Allergies? Sniff This!: http://www.aanma.org/2010/06/nasal-allergies-sniff-this/
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