We’ve all experienced it – you get sick, and your nose clogs up. But only one side gets obstructed. Turns out that being a nose cyclops is a common phenomenon, and one that actually has a scientific explanation.
When you take in air, there are structures in both sides of your nose called “inferior turbinates,” which warm up and moisten the air before it enters your lungs. Your lungs, as a result, don’t get as irritated or dried out.
When you get sick, your body will put most of the workload on only one side of your nose. The other side, in response, will swell so that less air is taken in. The overall result is that your body has to expend less energy on the inferior turbinates.
The process is called the “nasal cycle,” and is happening most of the time. When you get sick, though, it becomes much more pronounced. The swelling is caused by increased blood flow to that side of the nose. And when you become ill, the blood flow is even more pronounced.
While the nasal cycle can’t really be stopped, it does have its own kind of built-in relief. The turbinates switch duty after some time elapses, maybe an hour and a half to four hours. The side that was “clogged” will clear, and the other side will swell closed.
If it gets really bad, the best thing to do is to take a hot shower, or give yourself some kind of steam or humidifier treatment to reduce congestion. And saline nasal sprays can also make a difference.
If the clogging is really bad, you can reach for the big guns and use a topical nasal congestion spray with the compound oxymetazoline in it. But be careful – you can actually become dependent on these sprays to keep your nose unobstructed.
When you use them, be sure you don’t use them for longer than about a week. And limit your applications to no more than two a day. Otherwise, your body could adjust to the medicine and never open your nostrils unless it’s in your system.
If you stay congested for two weeks, or you’re congested all the time even when you’re not sick, you should see a doctor. It’s possible that you have a more serious condition, like a deviated septum.
It’s always remarkable to learn facts like this. The body never seems to run out of surprises for us.