Why does it hurt when water flows through your nose?


Why does it hurt when water flows through your nose?

In: 232

Your nose contains extremely sensitive scent receptors, which are able to detect extremely small pieces of matter (molecules basically). These scent receptors get irritated when water flows through/over them. This is because the water that goes through your nose is never pure water. For example, pool water may contain chemicals like Chlorine which tend to irritate human cells. Even tap water or bottled water contain chemicals and minerals which can cause irritation of scent receptors.

Your body actually consists of 60% water. So, water isn’t necessarily a strange chemical to your body. But, the water in your body also isn’t pure water. It’s actually saline. More specifically it is a mixture of water (H2O) and exactly 0,9% salt.

Should you buy 0.9% saline water at the pharmacy and push this through your nose, it won’t hurt that much. Unless you apply too much pressure of course, but then it’s the force of the water that hurts, not the water itself. 😉 Saline water is even used to clean the nose of babies, as they have not yet learned to blow their nose in a tissue.


It hurts almost entirely because the water isn’t at the same salt level as your body. The relatively pure water causes the cells in contact to swell up with water so that the concentration gradient across the cell membrane is less. This swelling causes pain. I’ve done the nasal rinse with salty water many times and there’s no pain.

Fun fact: I have a hidden cleft palate, so not only does water pass through my nose very time i drink it too quickly, it also frequently happens with alcoholic drinks (hurts like hell), I also vomit through my nose (hurts the most out of everything)