It’s Normal For Half Your Nose to Always Feel Blocked
By Chad Upton | Editor
You probably don’t think about it much, but if you did, you’d notice that it often feels like one nostril or the other is always plugged. That’s completely normal for about 70% of adults.
Assuming you’re healthy, your “plugged” nostril actually allows a tiny amount of air through and your other nostril handles the rest. After an average of 2.5 hours, the cycle will shift and use the alternate nostril as the primary source of air. The following scan shows one nasal passage mostly blocked and the other mostly open.
For a long time, Eastern medicine has had theories about the purpose of this cycle and a number of exercises that involve moving air through a specific nostril. On the other hand, Western scientists didn’t come up with a physiological purpose for this phenomena until more recently.
Research indicates that the high/low flow approach in the two nostrils optimizes your sense of smell. As you’ve probably discovered first hand, or shall we say finger, the inside of your nose is lined with mucus. This mucus continues deep inside your nasal passage and is very important; it acts as a barrier and helps protect your brain from infection. But, it also means that something you smell has to be absorbed by the mucus before you can smell it.
This mucus absorbs different chemical compounds at different rates. Therefore, some smells are better detected when they are absorbed in more concentrated levels in the slow moving airstream of your plugged nostril while others are better smelled when absorbed in lower concentration through the fast moving airstream of the other nostril.
Humans have about 1.6 sq inches (10 cm²) of smell receptor cells in our nasal passage. By contrast, dogs have 17 times more space dedicated to these same receptors, and in greater density, which explains why their sense of smell is so much better than ours.