Why does my nose get red when it's cold?

Written by tim altork
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Why does my nose get red when it's cold?
(Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

One of the body's responses to cold temperatures is to constrict blood flow to non-essential areas and redirect it toward the heart to preserve body warmth. This response is the main reason why your nose turns red when it's cold.

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Function

The redirection of blood flow in cold temperatures is an instinctive survival response. The blood vessels in the extremities constrict, reducing the flow to the extremities -- including the nose -- and leaving more blood for your vital internal organs.

Result

As a result of this limited flow of blood, the nose and other extremities will initially go pale. The body will periodically dilate the constricted vessels to allow a brief burst of blood to flow into the area and then constrict the vessels again. This burst of blood causes the nose to turn red.

Indoors

A sudden increase in your surrounding temperature, such as when you go inside from being out in cold weather, will cause the constricted vessels to quickly re-dilate. The increase in blood flow will cause your nose to turn red until the blood flow equalises and the skin returns to its normal colour.

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