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This Is Why Only One Nostril Is Blocked When You Have A Cold

Have you ever wondered why only one nostril is blocked when you have a cold? The so-called nasal cycle is to blame. What is behind the phenomenon?

The cold and flu epidemic is in full swing, and more and more people are suffering from coughs, sore throats, and runny noses.

A blocked nose is particularly annoying because it makes breathing difficult and often causes poor sleep.

Those affected can often observe that only one nostril is blocked – but why is that?

This Is How The Nasal Cycle Works

If you pinch your nostrils one after the other and breathe in deeply, you will find that breathing through one nostril is much easier.

One nasal concha is always resting while the other is working. Doctors observed this phenomenon as early as 1895.

The specialist in ear, nose, and throat medicine, explains the nasal cycle as the alternating swelling and swelling of the mucous membrane and erectile tissue on both sides of the nose.

This process takes place permanently and independently of external stimuli. A cycle lasts between 30 minutes and 14 hours.

But what does this process mean for a cold?

That’s Why Only One Nostril Is Blocked At A Time

The nasal cycle runs unconsciously. In other words, you don’t even notice that only one turbinate is active at a time. However, it is different when you suffer from a cold.

Then the swollen nasal mucosa and the alternating nasal cycle make it feel like only one side is blocked.

What Is The Function Of The Cycle?

“During the nasal cycle, the mucous membrane and erectile tissue on one side of the nose are always swollen while the other side is in the active phase. In this operational phase, a much higher airflow enters the nose than during the resting phase,” 

The swollen state at rest minimizes the air reaching the mucosa. Therefore, the mucous membrane releases significantly less moisture into the air during the resting phase.

Since air can enter the nose unhindered during the operational phase due to the decongested state, the mucous membrane has to be moistened all the more in this phase.

“The rest phase, therefore, serves to relax and regenerate the nasal mucosa. In this phase of regeneration, the mucous membrane saves moisture and energy.

The nasal mucosa primarily plays a protective device against inhaled foreign bodies and pathogens.

Your cilia transport foreign substances away. The regeneration processes ensure that the mucous membrane remains functional.

Especially after a cold or infection, the ability to regenerate is vital for restoring protective functions,” 

What Influences The Nasal Cycle?

One of the most well-known complaints related to the nasal cycle is nasal hyperreactivity. The natural nasal process is disturbed by contact with external stimuli in this phenomenon.

The mucous membrane of the nose naturally reacts to specific influences with obstructed nasal breathing, sneezing, or similar phenomena.

In this context, physicians differentiate between specific and non-specific hyperreactivity. In specific hyperreactivity, the patient overreacts to allergens.

On the other hand, if he reacts to environmental stimuli such as smoke, vapors, or cold air, this is referred to as non-specific hyperreactivity.

The ENT expert points out that both “inflammation and disorders of neural control play a role in hyperreactivity.

The production and release of endogenous substances such as neurotransmitters changes, and the receiving receptors of the vessels and nerves or glands overreact.”

What Helps If The Nose Is Swollen On One Side?

If the nose is swollen on one side without an external stimulus, you must become active because nasal breathing is usually still sufficient.

“However, the use of isotonic or hypertonic saline solutions is an option to decongest the nose gently,”

If the nose is blocked for a more extended period, you should consult a doctor who can make a reliable diagnosis.


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