Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by MJ. MJ Wonders, “Why do we have nose hair?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, MJ!

Have you ever WONDERed why we—wait—hold on—ah, ah, ah, achoo! Sorry, it’s allergy season here in Wonderopolis, and we just can’t stop sneezing. With all the pollen and dust in the air, many people are having the same problem. Now that we’re thinking about it, that connects pretty well to today’s Wonder of the Day. Have you ever WONDERed why we have nose hair?

When we’re young, our nose hair is so short that we might not even notice it’s there. As we get older, though, our nose hair grows. By the time we’re adults, many people have nose hair that’s long enough to be seen growing out of their nostrils. When it gets that long, nose hair can be annoying.

However, nose hair isn’t there just to bug you. It does an important job. You may not have noticed, but when we breathe, we don’t just take in oxygen. We also breathe in any particles in the air around us. This can include things like dirt, viruses, and bacteria. It can also include dangerous particles put there by pollution. When we breathe through our noses, nose hair catches those particles. It stops them from making their way into our bodies.

Two types of nose hair work together to protect us. Deep in our noses, we have tiny hairs called cilia. These hairs constantly wave back and forth. Their job is to catch dangerous particles in mucus. Cilia then move the particle-filled mucus toward our throat. There, it is either coughed up or swallowed.

The second type of nose hair is called vibrissae. These longer hairs catch large particles so they can’t even get to our cilia. Instead, they stay trapped in our nose hairs until we sneeze or blow them out! That’s why people tend to sneeze more in the spring—when there’s lots of pollen in the air, we catch it in our vibrissae. These hairs are much farther up in our nostrils. They’re the ones you can sometimes see.

Even though nose hairs have a very important job, many people don’t like them. If nose hairs get too long, many people try to get rid of them by plucking or trimming. Plucking nose hair? Wouldn’t that hurt? We certainly think so! Besides the pain, plucking nose hairs leaves behind empty hair follicles. Dirt and bacteria can get caught in those follicles and cause a bad infection. Whatever you do, never pluck your nose hairs!

Trimming your nose hair isn’t quite as dangerous. However, remember that your nose hairs are there for a reason. if they’re cut too short, they may not be able to do their job. However unsightly long nose hairs can be, it’s not as bad as being sick all the time from inhaling dangerous particles!

As air pollution gets worse around the world, nose hairs become more and more important. Poor air quality caused about 4.2 million premature deaths in 2016, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States alone, about 40 percent of the population is at risk of health issues related to air pollution. For many places in Asia, the risk is higher.

With all that pollution in the air, how can our nose hairs keep up? They’re working hard to keep our bodies free of dangerous particles. The least we can do is not work against them. Instead of plucking or trimming nose hairs, let them do their job.


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