What your nose knows might surprise you. This little organ has a few tricks up its sleeve — err, nasal passages — that affect the body in many ways. Catch a whiff of these nine facts about the nose.
1. YOUR NOSE INFLUENCES YOUR VOICE
Even though speech comes from the mouth, your nose is one of the structures that helps to shape it. When you speak, air flows up through your vocal cords and into your mouth, according to Healthline. Your soft palate presses against the back of your throat to control the amount of air that exits through your nose. And if too much or too little air leaks out through the nose, it can change your voice. For instance, a stuffy nose can make your voice sound flat, as though the sound is being blocked, because not enough air is resonating through the nose. On the flip side, too much air escaping gives a person a very nasal voice.
2. IT’S YOUR BODY’S BUILT-IN AIR FILTER
Every day, your nose wages war against allergens, dust, dirt, germs and more in the environment. Luckily, it’s up to the challenge. “On the surface of the nasal tissues, particularly the turbinates, are cells with small hair-like appendages called cilia that trap much of the bad stuff,” according to Cleveland Clinic. “Once captured, the bad stuff sits in the mucous and gradually is pushed into the throat, where it’s swallowed.” Rather than all that stuff heading into the lungs, it goes down to the stomach, where it’s neutralized and expelled from the body.
3. IT ALSO HUMIDIFIES AIR AND REGULATES ITS TEMPERATURE
Besides being your first line of defense against pollutants, your nose also adjusts air to your body’s liking. If you’ve breathed cold, dry air, then you know how that can sting the throat and lungs. So your nose’s job is to regulate air to body temperature, as well as humidify it. “As the inhaled air passes through the nose, it is moisturized and humidified, thanks to a complex multiple layer structure called turbinates,” according to Cleveland Clinic.
4. YOUR SENSE OF SMELL PROTECTS YOU
When you breathe in, air comes in contact with nerve cells that work to detect and decipher scents. And while it’s nice to smell flowers or freshly baked cookies, the sense also has a more serious role in protecting the body. Your nose can detect toxins in the air, smoke, spoiled food and more. It also can help you identify when a person is close to you based on their scent. It might not be as sensitive as a bloodhound’s nose, but you still use your sense of smell more than you might think.
5. SMELL ALSO HELPS YOU TASTE
Taste and smell are closely intertwined. Your mouth works to determine the basic tastes: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami (savory). And your nose sends your brain information about the food’s scent, further influencing its flavor. (That’s why food seems tasteless when your nose is congested.) In fact, there’s a popular test that claims apples and onions taste the same when you eat both with your nose plugged. Try it for yourself if you dare.
6. YOUR NOSE HOSTS BENEFICIAL BACTERIA
It’s not just your gastrointestinal tract that has “good” bacteria. Your nose, nasal passages and sinuses also host bacteria that benefit the body. They work against bacteria that cause common infections, such as strep, pneumonia and the flu, according to Cleveland Clinic. And just like with your gut bacteria, it’s important to foster an environment in which the good nasal bacteria can take hold. That includes limiting antibiotic use only to when it’s truly necessary, washing irritants out of your nose using nasal irrigation and practicing good hygiene to avoid infection.
7. NEWBORNS ALMOST ALWAYS BREATHE THROUGH THEIR NOSES
The nose is your primary breathing route, according to Cleveland Clinic. That’s why people feel so uncomfortable when they’re congested, even though they still can breathe through their mouths. And nasal breathing is most dominant in newborns, who almost never breathe through their mouths. “This is a unique feature related to the configuration of their throats that allow them to breathe and suckle at the same time without choking,” Cleveland Clinic says. “This cannot happen in older children or adults who have to stop breathing to swallow.”
8. SCENT AIDS YOUR MEMORY
Have you ever smelled a meal you ate as a kid, and it triggered a vivid memory of your childhood? Your sense of smell has a powerful link to memory. “The olfactory bulb has direct connections to two brain areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory: the amygdala and hippocampus,” according to Psychology Today. “Interestingly, visual, auditory (sound), and tactile (touch) information do not pass through these brain areas.” This may be why you’re better able to remember events when there’s a scent attached to them.
9. IT MIGHT HELP YOU FIND A DATE
Speaking of scent, your nose might attract you to a person’s perfume or cologne. But it also might pick up on their pheromones to mark them as a potential mate. According to Cleveland Clinic, scientists disagree on the effects of pheromones in humans, but we do still have a small organ in our noses — the vomeronasal organ — that detects them. Although many animals use the organ, some scientists believe it is merely vestigial in humans. But others think it does still play a role in our pheromone communication. You’ll just have to decide for yourself whether you believe in love at first scent.