Your nose is part of your respiratory system. It allows air to enter your body, then filters debris and warms and moistens the air. Your nose gives you a sense of smell and helps shape your appearance. Many common symptoms affect your nose, such as a stuffy nose and nosebleed. Other symptoms may need treatment to keep your nose functioning well.


Diagram shows anatomy of a person's nose from the front and side views.
Anatomy of the nose from front (top) and side (bottom).

What is the nose?

Your nose, a structure that sticks out from the middle of your face, is part of your respiratory system.


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What is the function of your nose?

Your nose is involved in several important bodily functions:

  • Allows air to enter your body.
  • Contributes to how you look and how you sound when you speak.
  • Filters and cleans air to remove particles and allergens.
  • Provides a sense of smell.
  • Warms and moistens air so it can move comfortably into your respiratory system.

Your nose is also a prominent aspect of your facial appearance and your sense of well-being.


What are the parts of your nose?

Your nose anatomy includes:

  • Bone: The hard bridge at the top of your nose is made of bone.
  • Hair and cilia: Hair and cilia (tiny, hairlike structures) inside your nose trap dirt and particles. Then they move those particles toward your nostrils, where they can be sneezed out or wiped away.
  • Lateral walls (outer walls): The outer walls of your nose are made of cartilage and covered in skin. The walls form your nasal cavities and your nostrils.
  • Nasal cavities: Your nose has two nasal cavities, hollow spaces where air flows in and out. They are lined with mucous membranes.
  • Nerve cells: These cells communicate with your brain to provide a sense of smell.
  • Nostrils (nares): These are the openings to the nasal cavities that are on the face.
  • Septum: The septum is made of bone and firm cartilage. It runs down the center of your nose and separates the two nasal cavities.
  • Sinuses: You have four pairs of sinuses. These air-filled pockets are connected to your nasal cavities. They produce the mucus that keeps your nose moist.
  • Turbinates (conchae): There are three pairs of turbinates located along the sides of both nasal cavities. These folds inside your nose help warm and moisten air after you breathe it in and help with nasal drainage.

Conditions and Disorders

What conditions and disorders can affect your nose?

Health conditions that can affect your nose include:

  • Allergic rhinitis: Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) can cause irritation, sneezing, runny nose or stuffy nose.
  • Deviated septum: A deviated septum occurs when your septum is off-center, either at birth or from injury. It can cause breathing problems, nasal congestion and headaches.
  • Enlarged turbinates: Allergens and irritants can make the turbinates swell, which can block airflow and affect normal breathing.
  • Injury or trauma: Your nose can be broken or injured, similar to any other external part of your body.
  • Infection: An infection can cause many of the same symptoms as allergic rhinitis. Examples include sinus infections and the common cold.
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer: Your nose can be the site of head and neck cancer.
  • Nasal polyps: Nasal polyps are bumps that can block airflow or prevent your nose from filtering air.
  • Nasal valve collapse: Often caused by an accident or trauma to your nose, nasal valve collapse is the most common cause of nasal obstruction.
  • Nosebleed (epistaxis): Nosebleeds occur when a blood vessel in your nose breaks. They are common, and most aren’t serious.


How can I keep my nose healthy?

  • Avoid smoking or breathing in secondhand smoke.
  • Don’t remove nose hairs, or do it carefully, because they filter dirt and debris.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Keep your home clean to reduce the amount of dust and other allergens you may breathe in. Wash your bedsheets to remove dust.
  • Squirt saline into the nasal cavities to keep them clean and moist.
  • Use a humidifier at home to keep the air moist.

Additional Common Questions

When should I call a doctor about my nose?

Talk to a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following symptoms in your nose:

  • Frequent nosebleeds, or nosebleeds that won’t stop.
  • Fever higher than 103°F, which could be a sign of infection.
  • Yellow or green discharge from the nose, which could mean infection.
  • Sinus pain.
  • Snoring, especially if it keeps you awake at night.
  • If you are unhappy with the appearance of your nose.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Your nose is part of your respiratory system and performs several important jobs. It provides a sense of smell and filters dirt and allergens out of air as you breathe. Nasal symptoms such as a stuffy nose or nosebleed are common and usually not a reason for concern. But call a healthcare provider if you have pain or signs of infection.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/07/2021.

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