Prescriptions: Sniffing Out Nose Strips

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, March 1996

Prescriptions: Sniffing Out Nose Strips
By Sara Corbett

When a handful of NFL players started sporting adhesive strips across their noses a couple of years ago, it seemed like little more than a football-field fad. Today Breathe Right nasal strips grace the schnozes of an increasingly diverse group of athletes, including mountain-bike racers Tinker Juarez and Ruthie Matthes, in-line skating champion Eddie Matzger, and marathoner Anne Marie Lauck. Reason being that these simple strips maximize air intake--and therefore assist aerobic efforts. "They just seem to work," testifies Juarez, who wears the strips both training and racing. "Breathing becomes a little bit easier."

The premise behind the nasal strip is as basic as Juarez makes it out to be. When placed slightly below the nasal bone, about halfway between the bridge and the tip of the nose, the strip gently lifts the walls of the nostrils, allowing more air to pass through the nose and into the lungs. However, whether or not more air in the lungs means more oxygen to the muscles--and whether or not our muscles can even use more air than we can inhale through our unstripped noses--is still up for debate. "Even during strenuous exercise, you don't use all the oxygen available to you, so there's seldom a need for more air," says Philip Clifford, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based physiologist who specializes in the respiratory and cardiovascular responses to exercise. "To date, no studies have been done to prove that nasal strips do anything except help people with sleep apnea."

While the effectiveness of nasal strips in the waking hours hasn't yet been proved in clinical tests, it hasn't been disproved either. According to CNS Inc., which makes Breathe Right strips, studies are in the works. In the meantime, experts seem to agree that nasal strips pose no threat to one's beezer, which means it can't hurt to try them. "As an athlete, you're always looking for a slight edge over your competitors," says Juarez. "For me, the nasal strips might be making that difference."

$5 for a box of ten. From CNS Inc., 4400 W. 78th St., Bloomington, MN 55435; 800-858-6673.

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