Why does it bother you so much when water gets in your nose?

The sensation is a mixture of despair and burning. When you can't swim or try to get in the water without blocking your nose holes with your fingers, it is almost inevitable that some water will enter the nasal canal and the terrible burning sensation will settle in. But why does this happen?

After all, aren't we mostly made up of water? Yes, precisely! But all the water we have in our bodies has a salinity index that is often different from the water in swimming pools, lakes, the sea, or the watery bladder you are about to carry in your head. The water in human body cells has a sodium chloride content of less than 1%.

In the case of seawater, the average salinity is 3.5%, much higher than that of the body. Swimming pool water has a salinity normally even less concentrated than that of the human body.

When water comes into contact with the semipermeable membrane inside the nose, the first effect it produces is similar to that of osmosis: water molecules try to move from a less to a more concentrated solution across the membrane to balance the surface. situation.

Then you catch your nose!

So when we are talking about pool water or splashing toys - like the slab hose games and the bladder war that we Brazilians love so much - the water that goes into the nose literally tries to invade the membrane that protects the inside. of the nose.

In the case of saltwater, which is saltier, the effect is the other way around: less saltwater in the body tends to come out of the cells to balance the environment, even if it is the environment inside the nose, on the other side of the membrane. And that is also why, often when we are at sea, the urge to blow our nose along with the burning arises.

This is even the principle of some nasal saline solutions used to remove excess mucus and to unlock the nose. In fact, a stuffy nose may be the result of sweat, not necessarily mucus, and more salinized solutions can clear the air, as they eliminate water in the form of phlegm.

Curious, isn't it?


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