Thousands of litres of air pass through the nose every day. Yet this essential organ is often neglected. Let’s learn more about the nose, what it does and how to care for it.
Functions of the nose
The nose and nasal cavities play a major role in the human body, making proper nasal care extremely important. Here is an overview of their main functions.
Breathing and filtering. The air we breathe passes through the nostrils and nasal cavities. It is then moistened, warmed and filtered by mucus and cilia (tiny hairs), which trap foreign particles, such as pollution, dust, pollen, viruses, bacteria and fungi.
Smell. The olfactory cells, bulb and nerve, which are located in the upper part of the nasal cavities, capture scents and send a signal to the brain that allows us to recognize them. The nose also helps us detect delicate flavours and aromas.
Drainage. The sinuses and tear ducts drain through the nasal cavities.
Voice. The nose and nasal cavities also contribute to phonation, the production of voice and language, by serving as a sounding board for the projection of sounds.
Nasal care for better health
Nasal care supports our overall health in many ways. For example:
- It prevents respiratory infections in babies, children and adults.
- It makes it easier for babies to breastfeed.
- It reduces the severity of cold symptoms (nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, sore throat) and shortens its duration.
- It eases allergy symptoms by eliminating allergens from nasal membranes.
- It improves sleep.
- It keeps the nose moist and prevents nosebleeds.
What is proper nasal care?
Here are a few measures to keep your nose –and yourself – healthy:
- Maintain the relative humidity level in your home at 30 to 50 percent.
- Quit smoking and ask your guests to smoke outside.
- Keep your surroundings free of dust:
- Avoid carpets and stuffed toys and dust on a regular basis.
- Air out your home every day.
- Do a nasal cleansing every day – this is particularly important for babies and children.
- Increase the number of cleansings if you have a cold or allergies.
Use of a saline nasal solution is a good way to cleanse nasal cavities. Be sure to choose a product specially formulated for this purpose. There are many types of saline solutions on the market today:
- Isotonic solutions contain the same concentration of salt as the human body. They are gentle enough for even the most sensitive noses.
- Hypertonic solutions have a concentration of salt greater than what is found in the body. They help thin mucous and relieve congestion, without a rebound effect.
- They are available as drops, aerosols and sprays with a gentle, moderate or heavy stream.
- Some are formulated with moisturizers, others without.
Nasal hygiene products
A great way to cleanse nasal cavities is to use a saline solution. Of course, you need to pick a product made for this purpose. There are many types available on the market today:
Isotonic solutions contain the same concentration of salt as the fluids in the human body. This makes them gentle enough for even the most sensitive noses.
Hypertonic solutions have a concentration of salt greater than what is found in the body, which means they can thin mucous and relieve congestion, without a rebound effect.
Saline solutions are available as drops, aerosols and sprays with a gentle, moderate or heavy stream.
Some are also formulated with moisturizers or lubricants.
The neti pot has been used for centuries by practitioners of Ayurveda, a form of traditional Indian medicine. It resembles Aladdin’s lamp and is used to irrigate the nose and eliminate mucous by pouring warm salt water into one nostril and draining it from the other. Great for cleansing the nasal passages and sinuses!
Do you have questions about nasal care? Need help selecting the right product? Talk to your family pharmacists. They’re here to help!