How do astronauts on EVA deal with nose itching?



It must be absolutely torturous if your nose starts itching and you can't scratch it for several hours, when you're on EVA. How do astronauts deal with it? Are they undergoing a special training, or take some kind of desensitizing drugs? Or apply some special anti-itching cosmetics?


Posted 2015-12-10T09:19:01.107

Reputation: 23 066

8I can't stop thinking about my nose itching now...David Grinberg 2015-12-10T14:27:22.293

5It's moments like this that I wish real astronauts answered questions on space.stackexchange :) They've got nothing better to do while chilling in the ISS, right??pbarranis 2015-12-10T14:43:17.223

Maybe they sedate the nostrils, and the skull's skin overall, with an injection before the EVA. They are crazy, they go to space. One just has to say: "If you don't accept this, then you won't go to space!" And they will obey at any pain and pay. NASA has the world's most compliant employes.LocalFluff 2015-12-10T15:22:39.360

2@pbarranis We have had answers written by astronauts.duzzy 2015-12-10T20:53:22.783


@LocalFluff: Is EVA specifically likely to cause motion sickness, once you've got over the usual space sickness? This book google found just says to wait 3 days before spacewalking, because of the risk of throwing up in your space suit (which is life-threatening).

Peter Cordes 2015-12-10T21:36:04.980

@PeterCordes I have a weird impression that the visual chaos of the inside of ISS serves that very purpose: if you don't get nausea with the thousands of knicknacks within your field of view, you won't get it in the calm of open space.SF. 2015-12-10T21:53:14.877

@duzzy: links/usernames?SF. 2015-12-10T21:54:01.643

8Doubt the psychology tag. Shouldn't it be physiology instead?Deer Hunter 2015-12-10T21:59:50.917


@pbarranis ... and sometimes, astronauts refer others to answers here

TildalWave 2015-12-11T02:08:06.533

@DeerHunter: I had assumed they undergo some training to just ignore it. I guess I was wrong.SF. 2015-12-11T02:57:37.750

1Regarding space sickness, look up the Garn scale.Brian Lynch 2015-12-11T15:18:40.860

Having to scratch your nose would be irritating, but for sheer terror I'd imagine it's hard to beat getting blinded while on an EVA!

Mason Wheeler 2015-12-14T19:01:48.143



According to Chris Hadfield's answer during his Reddit AMA:

"We have a squishy thing inside we jam our nose into while we clear our ears — we scratch our nose on that."

The "squishy thing" is formally known as a Valsalva device (used by both astronauts and divers for equalizing pressure in their sinuses. (Thanks to Organic Marble's comment).

In addition, astronauts wearing Orlan spacesuits can actually pull their arm inside the suit to freely scratch an itch. See called2voyage's answer to this question as well as this entry on Thomas Reiter's EVA blog.

Brian Lynch

Posted 2015-12-10T09:19:01.107

Reputation: 3 634


According to an audio transcript of the Apollo 17 lunar mission, some astronauts had a Velcro patch somewhere on the inside of the helmet to scratch their nose on.


Posted 2015-12-10T09:19:01.107

Reputation: 171


How about Willpower? Every Soldier learns to stand still at a parade or when they got to pledge loyalty. When I had my inauguration at the Austrian Military forces, we all had to stand still for quite some time (2-3 hours no nose or butt scratching) and it wasn't really a problem. Also, if you're concentrated on something serious (like doing work in a completely hostile environment) it is very likely that this distracts you from any upcoming itching.


Posted 2015-12-10T09:19:01.107

Reputation: 177


Chris Hadfield actually talks about that in his TED talk, specifically referencing having his eye watering and blinding him on an EVA.

Brian Lynch 2015-12-10T11:03:14.113

6On a good day, of course, that's why they recruit the right stuff for the job. But things can go wrong in spaceflight. Life support systems should be designed to handle also the bad days, as when an astronaut is half unconscious or having fluid or dust leaking into her helmet. Or simply taking care of sweating intensely while desperately working to handle an emergency.LocalFluff 2015-12-10T11:07:39.800

2Same for me. Also, consider the willpower when under ABC-gear, marching for hours, while having a cold and a running nose (happened to me). Not what I'd call cozy, but nothing unbearable either.phresnel 2015-12-10T14:07:39.133

1@phresnel: yeah, ABC-gear can be a real pain in the a... nose ^^Bounce 2015-12-10T15:32:56.933

3@LocalFluff the same applies for land-based biohazard or chemical protection suits, or a simple gas mask - where you "could" scratch your nose, but doing so could kill you. These are far more common than space suits, and there people just deal with it.Peteris 2015-12-10T19:51:46.330

1@Peteris I agree. When riding a motorbike I never had any thought of stopping to scratch my head. When one is busy one just ignores it. It is somehow instinctively taken care of. Drivers famously scratch their noses at the stoplight. If for some reason astronauts have to sit idle for days with helmet, it'll be uncomfortable, but they get paid for it.LocalFluff 2015-12-11T02:26:46.893

1It's different when the only other thing than ignoring the itch is to stand still to attention, than when you need to concentrate on puzzling out that weird malfunction in a complex system and precisely operate tools through what feels like inflated rubber ball. Besides, one time I got some painful inflammation at the very tip of my nose, it would hurt whenever touched. I had never before realized how often I touch my nose completely subconsciously before then...SF. 2015-12-12T23:02:24.697

1@SF Thats the whole thing. If you're concentrated on something important, the itching mostly doesn't even come up and even if, you can distract yourself from itching by doing difficult things (ask people with skin problems) and having nothing to do but to stand still, makes it even more unbearable.Bounce 2015-12-14T09:54:42.407


From Retro Space Images's FaceBook post:

Gene Cernan scratches the itch during an Apollo 17 training session at KSC.

enter image description here


Posted 2015-12-10T09:19:01.107

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