Friday, June 5, 1998 Published at 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Health: Latest News
Nasal strip claims deflated
Liverpool's Robbie Fowler is one of many athletes who use nasal strips
Athletes who wear a nasal strip thinking it will increase their air intake and improve their performance are fooling themselves, researchers have claimed.
But they say the strips could help asthma sufferers.
Tests carried out by American researchers found that a nasal strip worn across the nostrils as recommended by the manufacturer had no effect on breathing during intense exercise and had no impact on performance.
Volunteers took part in tests on an exercise cycle while the researchers measured air flow, the amount of air breathed in and out and its quality.
In some tests, the nasal strip was applied properly and in others it was worn over the nasal bone, where it could have no impact. No significant difference was recorded in the results.
Popular with athletes
Professor Frank Cerny, of the University of Buffalo where the research was carried out, said: "A lot of athletes are wearing nasal strips, and most aren't wearing them where recommended.
"We wanted to see if the strips, when worn correctly, have any effect at this level of performance. The answer is they don't."
The strips are designed to hold the nostrils open. They make breathing through the nose easier during low or moderate activity, such as a slow jog or leisurely bicycling, but not at high levels of exercise where enhanced performance is desired, Professor Cerny said.
The study was based on the existence of a physiological condition called the "switch point," the moment at which a person performing a high-intensity task - such as a footballer chasing a pass - changes from breathing through the nose to breathing through the mouth as the demand for oxygen increases.
A nasal strip would have to extend the time that an athlete takes to arrive at switch point beyond that reached normally during exercise to be of any benefit.
"Such a result would show that the nasal strip made nasal breathing easier longer," Professor Cerny said.
The test subjects wore separate masks over their noses and mouths during the exercise tests so researchers could measure air flow and quality from both organs. They also measured whether their performance was improved.
Results showed that wearing a nasal strip appeared to have no effect on the switch point, or on the amount of air breathed in through the nose during high-intensity exercise and did not enhance performance of any of the study participants.
However, the strip does show improvements for low-intensity exercise. This means it could prove useful to people who experience exercise-induced asthma.
Air breathed in through the nose is of better quality than that breathed through the mouth, a plus for asthma sufferers.