Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why Can't I Blow My Nose?

Image from Anatomy-
A little while ago, I posted a piece on my life-long ability to sneeze with nearly 100% frequency when going out into the sun. It's called a photic sneeze, and the post attracted quite a few readers and reader comments.  This got me to thinking.  I mean, I was able to find out about the photic sneeze on Wikipedia. But I have another seemingly from birth abnormality, and I can't seem to find out anything about it. Maybe a reader might know about this.

I can't blow my nose. Well, not like a normal person, anyway. If I'm in a steamy shower, I can blow my nose fairly normally. But if I'm not in the shower, anything beyond the gentlest outward pressure "pops" my ears. When I was a child, this would cause much consternation from my mother, who just thought I didn't like to or didn't know how to blow my nose. She'd be rootin' around in my nose with a Q-Tip, trying to unclog my unblown nose. Then she'd hold a tissue to my face, and tell me to blow. . .BLOW! She'd get angry. One time, to please her, I blew, really hard. . .and blew out my eardrums. Literally. Blood and everything.

Luckily, I healed up, and my hearing seems to be unaffected as an adult. But I still can't blow my nose. And a modified version of mom's Q-Tip procedure is necessary (that, or a good honkin' in the shower). On top of this indignity, I'm rather klutzy, something I've always guessed had something to do with my messed up ears, and sense of balance. Also, in times of changing pressure (such as on an airplane), the pressure can at times become almost unbearable. And the negative affect on my hearing while flying seems to be more pronounced and longer-lasting than it does for other people.

So, let's add this up. I am a photic sneezer. I can't blow my nose. I was born with a lazy eye, so despite corrective surgery, I don't have normal stereoscopic vision (can't see 3D movies or stills). And, oh yeah, I'm gay. That's a boatload of atypical inborn traits, wouldn't you say? It's a good thing I've got a friend doing some ancestry research on my family. I'm beginning to suspect that Mom and Dad were related!


  1. Have you tried using a Neti pot to clear out your nose?

  2. Rarely. It works, but I can't get used to the feeling.

  3. "So, let's add this up. I am a photic sneezer. I can't blow my nose. I was born with a lazy eye, so despite corrective surgery, I don't have normal stereoscopic vision (can't see 3D movies or stills). And, oh yeah, I'm gay. That's a boatload of atypical inborn traits, wouldn't you say? It's a good thing I've got a friend doing some ancestry research on my family"
    And that's why your nickname is lucky? : )
    Considering that's all that's wrong with you, you are lucky. Many people are a lot worse. I complain sometimes about my back hurting, but then I look at my kids in my classroom and their family members and I feel quite blessed.

  4. Well, I don't mind the sneezing. . .a good honking sneeze can be kind of fun. I don't mind the gay thing either (though if you'd have asked me when I was 13, I may have had a different answer). . .that can be fun too! The eye thing just pisses me off when I want to see a 3D movie. Whatever blows out my ears when I try to blow my nose? THAT I'd like to fix!

  5. Haha! This is so much like me! I cant blow my nose, have never been able to. The pain on the descend of a flight is unbearable and im gay too - life is harsh!

    Ive met just one other person who cannot blow their nose, a few years ago I was trying to find info online and I did find something that said something along the lines of it having something to do with some kind of gland but ive forgotten and cant find it again.

  6. I've always assumed it was something to do with the Eustachian tubes, a blockage or malformation. Since steam helps, maybe they're just very narrow or congenitally collapsed or something.

  7. I believe the gland name you're looking for is adenoids. It is a gland at the back of the nasal cavity and its purpose is similar to the tonsils. I have some issues blowing my nose unless I have a really nasty cold or have been crying. If I've got just a little cold then its plugged for a while and the post nasal drip is more of a post nasal sludge and sometimes I even gag. I have had some issues with pressure changes when in an airplane but as I've gotten older the pain has become much less; with the exception of turbulence that sucks!! When I was little (around 3) I had my adenoids removed because of chronic ear infections. A couple years ago I also learned that my eustachian tubes and ear canals are thinner (the diameter) than most people. I would recommend finding a good ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) Doctor and asking them about your inability to blow your nose and maybe they can give you some suggestions.

  8. I'M NOT ALONE!!
    Dude I know exactly what your talking about, I even had similar incidents as a child (but with some kind of weird miniature turkey-baster thing) and when i try to blow my nose a faint air comes out but not enough to propel anything inside. And I also feel my ears pop when I try hard. I dunno what is the cause even after seeing a doctor but its comforting to know I'm not the only person with this.

  9. I, have had nasal polyps removed twice, they came back both times in a couple of weeks. my 13yr. granddaughter has had the same. I, am gearing up for a 3rd. time. approx. 2wks. I have been unable to blow my nose. WOW. HOPE IT OPENS SOON

    1. Well to our CBYNC we should start a Can't Blow Your Nose Club. I was in first grade. And my father told me that he was going to put arsenic in my mouth (that kills you) if I did not blow my nose. I remember being in the basement and crying my eyes out; terrified and staring at the bottle of arsenic he put on the table to scare me. Then when he got tired of telling me off; my brother would jump in front me at say BLOW YOUR NOSE!! He was 9. My mother did nothing. Then fast forward when we got rid of my toxic father I was at the age of 9 I think; my mom was Singer sewing in the basement, I went up to her and said, Hey Ma I just blew my nose! She kept on sewing and did nothing. It is a humiliation that stays with you all your life, and when a family secret gets shared with a new brother's wife, that is real pain, some things are suppose to be left in the family. But I am an adult now, and I have total compassion for all of you. I found out 2 years ago, on the internet that I am NOT the only person in the world that could not blow their nose. It took most of my young adult life to work hard real hard, be around geniuses so I could "get smarter" and it worked. Will I never forget those days and the times I went to school with a red nose, and teacher said, why is your nose red - . But ever so often when in a movie, someone says, hey snot nose, yeah, it hurts but, not so much. God Bless all the people that Cannot blow their nose; what is One weakness God will give you 3 greater strengths. Thank yo.


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