MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Your Nose Runs When You Cry

This weekend, my wife & I watched a movie that had a pretty sad-yet-heartwarming ending. And it wasn’t just the tears that were flowing at that ending, but also…well…nasal fluids, too. (Sorry, not trying to be gross. But it happens to all of us.) They seem to be two different systems, right? But are they really? Why does your nose run whenever you cry?

Scientists really don’t know the evolutionary reason why we cry, but they do know a bit about how our tears happen. Basically, emotional stimulation makes our brains transmit messages to our tear ducts that tell them to turn on the tears. But the thing is, those messages go to our eyes, not our noses. So, why does crying seem to trigger mucus production, as well?

Well, actually, it doesn’t really. When you cry, some of your tears leave your eyes & roll down your cheeks. But there are other tears that end up flowing through your tear ducts & down into your nasal cavity, where they join forces with your mucus to create the whole weepy waterworks situation.

But this isn’t always the case when you might have a runny nose. Like whenever you eat spicy foods, for instance; the mucous membranes in your nasal cavity do actually make more of their stuff as a means of trying to flush out the “hot” compounds before they can mess up your respiratory system. Cold air also makes your mucous membranes ramp up their output, too, as their way of warming up & dampening the cold, dry air before it makes it to your lungs.

But when it comes to crying your eyes out at a sad movie or a sad song, everything you’re wiping away with those tissues is actually just from one big sad family.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send a message via my Twitter (@AndyWebbRadio), or email [email protected].

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