The nasal passages with all their elements (Turbinates & Sinuses)
function in concert to improve our breathing as compared to breathing
through our mouths. This is because they:
& cleanse the air by trapping inhaled
particles in mucus which we swallow
of smell fibers (stippled white & yellow)
reside on the middle & superior turbinate
(st and mt)
on image to view enlargement)
the air in dry climates so we do not have a dry throat
or cool the inhaled air so that we are more comfortable with it
in our “wind pipe” (trachea)
from infection via the production of immunoglobulins and toxic
chemicals which diminish the frequency of infection from inhaled
bacteria, molds and viruses.
sense of smell
the flowers in life
danger – smoke, chemical, spoiled food
irritants and expel them via a sneeze reflex
the functioning of our lungs at rest.
even though the nasal passages are much narrower than our
mouths most of us find it more comfortable to breath through
our nose in part because its narrowness helps our lungs inflate
better when we are not exercising. Unfortunately, if the nasal
passages are too narrow we sense the uncomfortable feeling
of nasal blockage/stuffiness.
In addition to their mucus producing function, the paranasal sinuses
appear to serve additional benefit: They are thought to help us
as a cushion in trauma to protect the brain and eye.
the resonance of our voice
the weight of the head, so that in evolutionary terms humans could
of “mucociliary blanket” inside the frontal &
(click on image to view enlargement)
Each of the turbinates and sinuses are also covered by mucosa (see
Nasal & Sinus Anatomy). The mucosa of the nasal passages and
sinuses produces between ½ quart and up to 1 ½ quarts
of mucus /day. It is drained from the sinuses by tiny hair-like
structures called cilia that beat the mucous out of the sinuses
into the nasal passages and down into our throat where is usually
imperceptibly swallowed. This “mucociliary blanket”
serves to filter our air of tiny particles which can contain infection
and other irritants which are then digested by acid in our stomach.
The mucus contains defensive proteins that help protect us from
invasion by organisms. Additionally the moisture of the “mucus
blanket” helps humidify the air that we breathe. This “mucus
blanket” becomes noticeable when there is a lot of it (thin
and watery) or when it becomes thick and dry. This is typically
referred to as post-nasal drip.
In addition to the mucus producing role of the mucosa, it is rich
with blood vessels and nerve endings that serve many purposes that
include our sense of smell and “sneeze reflex”.