Inside the nose, in the middle part, there are nerves with a fancy name. They are called olfactory nerves, and they are responsible for our being able to smell. The air we breathe in passes by these nerves. If the air has an odor, let us say, of roses, then we immediately smell roses. These nerves are extremely sensitive. They can tell hundreds upon hundreds of different odors from one another, and they transmit along the nerve to the brain a separate signal for each smell. The brain then interprets each smell separately. And these nerves practically never make a when the air smells of roses, they never transmit the signal for lilacs or some other flower.
Think of all the many odors you know. In a second, with no trouble at all, you can tell the smell of bacon cooking in the kitchen even without being in the kitchen yourself. You can smell perfume, if your mother uses it, without being anywhere near her. And, of course, there are many outdoor smells-newly cut grass, fresh flowers, burning leaves, and zillions of others that you can spot as quickly as you can say Jimmy Cricket.
It’s pretty remarkable, isn’t it? And yet most animals can smell even better than people can. Cats, dogs, and horses have such a much better sense of smell than we do that, if one knows you, he can usually smell your body’s odor and everyone has a special kind of body odor-long before you come anywhere near him. If you are outdoors and the wind is blowing right, an animal can smell you coming front as far as a block or so away. Wild animals have an even better sense of smell than tame animals. A deer or it rabbit can smell the approach of a dangerous animal when it is far away. This wonderful sense of smell protects them, so when danger approaches they can run or hide in plenty of time.
We mentioned that everyone has a body odor of his or her own. That’s true. And the smell of a clean body, whether it is of a child or grown-up, can be very pleasant. It is only when people wear dirty clothes or don’t bathe often enough that their bodies smell bad.
The sense of smell all but disappears when we have a bad cold, because the membranes in our noses become swollen and irritated and stuffed with mucus. As a result, the nerves aren’t stimulated by odors in the air. You can test for yourself what happens when you can’t breathe through your nose. First, smell something nice by breathing in deeply through your nose. Next, pinch your nose closed and breathe in deeply through your mouth. Whatever you smelled before you practically can’t smell now. That’s what happens when your nose gets clogged up when you have a cold.
The nose is composed mainly of bone and cartilage. Its two cavities are separated by the septum, a wall of cartilage. The nasal bone is quite delicate and is easily fractured. In most cases, it is not too difficult to restore a fractured nose to its normal shape.
The sense of smell also has a great deal to do with the sense of taste. The next time you have a cold you will realize that you really can’t taste anything, unless you can smell it at the same time. If you want to, you can test this even without having a cold. Ask someone to blindfold you and then pinch shut your nose or stuff it for a few minutes with a little cotton. Then, ask to be given something familiar to eat. You may find that it doesn’t taste familiar at all.