A technique to measure the ability of the human nose to warm and humidify air

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1999 Jul;87(1):400-6. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1999.87.1.400.


To assess the ability of the nose to warm and humidify inhaled air, we developed a nasopharyngeal probe and measured the temperature and humidity of air exiting the nasal cavity. We delivered cold, dry air (19-1 degrees C, <10% relative humidity) or hot, humid air (37 degrees C, >90% relative humidity) to the nose via a nasal mask at flow rates of 5, 10, and 20 l/min. We used a water gradient across the nose (water content in nasopharynx minus water content of delivered air) to assess nasal function. We studied the characteristics of nasal air conditioning in 22 asymptomatic, seasonally allergic subjects (out of their allergy season) and 11 nonallergic normal subjects. Inhalation of hot, humid air at increasingly higher flow rates had little effect on both the relative humidity and the temperature of air in the nasopharynx. In both groups, increasing the flow of cold, dry air lowered both the temperature and the water content of the inspired air measured in the nasopharynx, although the relative humidity remained at 100%. Water gradient values obtained during cold dry air challenges on separate days showed reproducibility in both allergic and nonallergic subjects. After exposure to cold, dry air, the water gradient was significantly lower in allergic than in nonallergic subjects (1,430 +/- 45 vs. 1,718 +/- 141 mg; P = 0.02), suggesting an impairment in their ability to warm and humidify inhaled air.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Male
  • Nasal Cavity / physiology
  • Nasopharynx / physiology
  • Nose / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / physiopathology
  • Temperature