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BODY WATCH : Red-Nosed Weepers

August 22, 1995|KATHLEEN DOHENY

"Weeping makes the heart grow lighter"--or so says a Yiddish proverb. But what about the reddened nose that often follows a good bawl?

The more you cry, as anyone who's sniffled through a tear-jerker movie knows, the greater your chances of emerging from the theater a dead ringer for Rudolph.

Blame both physiology and psychology.

When you cry, tears travel from your eyes down the nasolacrimal ducts into the nose. When your nose runs, you're likely to wipe and rub it, an action that can make it red.

When people become emotional, there is an autonomic nervous system response that includes blood vessel dilation. As the vessels dilate, more blood comes to the surface of the skin, making the skin--including the nose--take on a flushed appearance.

* Sources: William H. Frey II; Ramsey Dry Eye and Tear Research Center at St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center, St. Paul; Dr. Jeffrey Safer, family physician; Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills.

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