Many, many nose problems.

Dear Matt:

I read somewhere that a good piece of fruit smells like it should. A peach should smell peachy, for example. The other day I was browsing the produce aisles in Henry's, sniffing the peaches and plums before I bag them so I don't get any duds, and an old lady scolded me publicly for putting my nose near the fruit. Am I getting germs on the fruit by smelling them? Isn't the fruit already pretty germy from people touching it?

-- Buffy, the net


So I'm outside, shuffled off with the rejects, smoking a cigarette, and some lady comes screeching around the corner saying something about how she's going to die from my smoke because she's "allergic" to it. I told her it's not possible to be allergic to smoke. She didn't like that at all. I didn't care. But I thought I'd better check and make sure I'm right before I use that line again. You can be allergic to dogs and roses, but can a person really be allergic to cigarette smoke?

-- Puff the Dragon, hanging out


When we smell something, do we actually suck tiny pieces of that thing into our noses?

-- Just Curious, San Diego

Whew! Edgy, edgy times. Fistfights in the produce aisles. Nose rage? Don't know what was biting the old babe, but of course your nose does not radiate germs. And of course even the best-washed hands are questionable. But you probably had your nose very, very close to the fruit, since produce is kept chilled, and cold air prevents all the nifty volatile oils in the fruit from vaporizing into something actually smellable. That's the big hitch in the smell-the-produce theory. It's hard to smell a peach in the average store. A smell is a gaseous form of certain chemicals in the dog poop or roses or whatever. Substances are more or less stable, chemically, which means a rock won't stink but coconut suntan oil will. So yes, if you stretch a point, when you take a whiff of that mmm-mmm-good new-car smell, you're inhaling vaporized dashboard, upholstery, and headliner. If you stretch a point. And as for that cigarette allergy, Puff's right, smoke isn't an allergen in the strict medical sense. For a substance to trigger an allergic reaction, you need a protein component that tobacco smoke doesn't have. What the screeching lady should have said is that the mucous membranes in her nasal passages are sensitive to assault by tobacco smoke; or maybe she should have said she is asthmatic and cigarette smoke makes it worse. But if you want to get picky, picky, picky, no, she should not be saying she's allergic to cigarette smoke. But I also predict you're cruisin' for a bruisin' if you continue to challenge the smoke-enraged in this way. Would you rather be right or keep all your original teeth?

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