Show Details

Cold Noses

January 21, 2009

A listener asks: Why does your nose run when it’s cold outside?


Cold weather noses….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Joules Haglund of Sweden noticed that when he ventures out into the frigid winter air, his nose starts to run, and he wants to know why. We consulted Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Center at Cardiff University in Wales. First of all, he says cold air irritates the nose.

RON ECCLES (The Common Cold Center at Cardiff University):
And it’s rather like putting a little dust or pepper into the nose – it triggers secretions and runny nose. The other reason the nose runs when we go out into the cold is that we breathe out steamy warm air full of moisture, and the nose is very cold, so some of the stream condenses in the nose and drips off as condensation.

And if you have a science question, don’t be left out in the cold. Give us a call at 1-800-why-isit. If we use your question, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.