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The Nose

Sources: A Handbook Of Health

How the Nose is Made. The nose began as a pair of little puckers, or

dimples, just above the mouth, containing cells that were particularly

good smellers, in order to test the food before it was eaten. All smells

rise, so these cells were right on the spot for their particular


The original way of breathing, before the nose-dimples or pits opened

through into the throat, was through the mouth; an
that is one

reason why it is so easy to fall into the bad habit of mouth-breathing

whenever the nose gets blocked by adenoids or catarrh. Some

creatures--fishes, for instance,--breathe through their mouths entirely;

if you watch one in an aquarium or a clear stream, you will easily see

that it is going gulp, gulp, gulp constantly. The saying to drink

like a fish is a slander upon an innocent creature; for what it is

really doing is breathing, not drinking. Even a frog, which has nostrils

opening into its throat, still has to swallow its air in gulps, as you

can see by watching its throat when it is sitting quietly. And, strange

as it may seem, if you prop its mouth open, it will suffocate, because

it can no longer gulp down air.[28]

Our noses are nine-tenths for breathing, and only about one-tenth for

smelling; so that by far the greater part of the nose is built on

breathing lines. But the smelling part of it, though small, is very

important, because it now has to decide, not merely upon the goodness or

badness of the food, but also upon the purity or foulness of the air we

breathe. The nostrils lie, as you can see, side by side, separated

from each other by a thin, straight plate of gristle and bone known as

the septum. This should be perfectly straight and flat; but very often

when the nose does not grow properly in childhood, it becomes crumpled

upon itself, or bulged over to one side or the other, and so blocks up

one of the nostrils. This is a very common cause of catarrh, and

requires, for its cure, a slight operation, a cutting away of the

bulging or projecting part of the septum. The rims of the openings of

the nose, known as the wings, have little muscles fastened to them

which pull them upward and backward, thus widening the air openings or,

as we say, dilating the nostrils. If you will watch any one who has been

running fast, or a horse that has been galloping, you will see that his

nostrils enlarge with every breath; and these same movements occur in

sick people who are suffering from disease of the lungs or the heart,

which makes it difficult for them to get breath enough.

Each nostril opens into a short and rather narrow, but high, passage,

known as the nasal passage, through which the air pours into the back

of the throat, or pharynx, and so down into the windpipe and lungs.

Instead of having smooth walls, however, the passage is divided into

three almost separate tubes, by little shelves of bone that stick out

from the outer wall. These are covered with thick coils of tiny blood

vessels, through which hot blood is being constantly pumped, like steam

through the coils of a radiator, so that the air, as it is being drawn

into the lungs, is warmed and moistened. The passage is lined with a

soft, moist skin, called mucous membrane, very much like that which

lines the stomach and bowels, except that it is covered with tiny little

microscopic hairs, called cilia, and that its glands pour out a thin,

sticky mucus, instead of a digestive juice. This thick network of

blood vessels just under the thin mucous skin is easily scratched into

or broken, and then we have nose-bleed.

The purpose of this mucus is to catch and hold, just as flypaper catches

flies, all specks of dust, lint, or germs that may be floating in the

air we breathe, and to keep them from going on into the lungs. As these

are caught upon the lining of the nose, they are washed down by the flow

of mucus or wafted by the movement of the tiny hairs back into the

throat, and swallowed into the stomach, where they are digested. Or, if

they are very irritating, they are blown out of the nostrils, or sneezed

out, and in that way got rid of.

If the dust is too irritating, or the air is foul and contains disease

germs, these set up an inflammation in the nose, and we catch cold, as

we say. If we keep on breathing bad or dusty air, the walls of the nasal

passages become permanently thickened and swollen; the mucus, instead of

being thin and clear, becomes thick and sticky and yellowish, and we

have a catarrh.

Catarrh is the result of a succession of neglected bad colds, caused,

not by fresh, cold air, but by hot, stuffy, foul air containing dust and

germs. The best and only sure way to avoid catarrh is by breathing

nothing but fresh, pure air, day and night, keeping your skin clean and

vigorous by cool bathing every day, and taking plenty of play in the

open air.

So perfect is this heating, warming, and dust-cleansing apparatus in the

nose, that by the time quite cold air has passed through the nostrils,

and got down into the back of the throat, it has been warmed almost to

the temperature of the body, or blood-heat, and has been moistened and

purified of three-fourths of its dust or disease germs. When you go out

of doors on a cold, frosty morning, your nose is very likely to block

up, because so much hot blood is pumped into these little steam-coils of

blood vessels, in order to warm the air properly, that they swell until

they almost block up the nostrils.

The Sense of Smell. The lower three-fourths of the nasal passages have

nothing whatever to do with the sense of smell; this is found only in

the highest, or third, division of the passages, right up under the root

of the nose, where odors can readily rise to it. Here can be found a

little patch of mucous membrane of a deep yellowish color, which is very

sensitive to smells, and from which a number of tiny little nerve twigs

run up to form the nerve of smell (olfactory nerve), which goes

directly to the brain. The position of the smell area at the highest and

narrowest part of the nose passage explains why when you have a very bad

cold, you almost lose your sense of smell; the lining of the lower part

of the nose has become so inflamed and swollen as to block up the way to

the highest part where the smelling is done.

Adenoids. If colds are neglected and allowed to run on, the

inflammation spreads through the nose back into the upper part of the

throat, or pharynx. Here it attacks a spongy group of glands, like a

third tonsil, which swells up until it almost blocks up the nose and

makes you breathe through your mouth. These swollen glands are called

adenoids, and cause not only mouth-breathing, but deafness, loss of

appetite, indigestion, headache, and a stupid, tired condition; so that

children that are mouth-breathers are often two or more grades behind

in school, poor students, and even stunted and undersized. You can often

tell them at sight by their open mouths and vacant, stupid look. A very

simple and harmless scraping operation will remove these adenoids

entirely, and what a wonderful improvement the mouth-breather will make!

He will often catch up two grades, and gain two inches in height and ten

pounds in weight within a year.

Adenoids not only cause deafness by blocking up the tube (Eustachian)

that runs from the throat to the ear,--the tube through which the air

passes when your ear goes pop,--but are also the commonest cause of

ear-ache and gatherings in the ear, which may burst the drum.