The Mystery of the Alternating Nostrils

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Vicki Cobb
The Master Chef of Kids’ Hands-On Science

     Are your two nostrils exactly the same size?  Don’t struggle to find out by looking in a small mirror.  Put your nose right above the mirror and breathe down on it.  You will see two circles of moisture as the warm moist air from your nose condenses into water when it hits the cool mirror surface.  One circle will be a LOT larger than the other.

    You might conclude that yes, one nostril is bigger than the other; that you will have to live with being lopsided.  But wait!  I mean wait an hour or so and do it again.  Surprise!  This time the small nostril is now the BIG one!  The larger nostril is dominant and takes in more of the air. You can do scientific study of your nose and see just how long each nostril dominates. Perhaps if you check often enough, you’ll discover a time when the two circles will be about the same size.  This will be the moment of the changing of the nostrils. Of course, you have to do this study when you don’t have a stuffy nose.  

    What’s behind this?  It seems that your nostrils are on an automatic timer from your brain so that they take turns being dominant.  It’s very interesting.  But I’m not sure if it is important.

    Not many people know about this.  But your dentist might.  A dentist is always looking at peoples’ nostrils.  See if your dentist knows about this. He or she might even know why this happens.  This just might be a medical mystery worth investigating.  And you might be just the one to do it.


Vicki Cobb ‘s “Discover Your Senses” series of books are available through the iTunes store. She begins by asking: “Know how to stop smelling?  Hold your nose.”  Also, check your library for copies. I mean wait an hour or so and do it again.  

Vicki is a member of iNK’s Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through Field Trip Zoom,  a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam.  Click here to find out more.

MLA 8 Citation
Cobb, Vicki. “The Mystery of the Alternating Nostrils.” Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 21 Nov. 2017,

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