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?

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    $\begingroup$ I can't stop thinking about my nose itching now... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ It'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?? $\endgroup$
    – pbristow
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ Doubt the psychology tag. Shouldn't it be physiology instead? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ @SF check the answers here. meta.space.stackexchange.com/questions/680/… $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ @pbarranis ... and sometimes, astronauts refer others to answers here twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield/status/593750488052408320 $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 2:08

4 Answers 4


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.


From Retro Space Images's FaceBook post:

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

enter image description here


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.

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    $\begingroup$ Chris Hadfield actually talks about that in his TED talk, specifically referencing having his eye watering and blinding him on an EVA. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 11:03
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    $\begingroup$ On 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. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 11:07
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    $\begingroup$ Same 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. $\endgroup$
    – phresnel
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ @phresnel: yeah, ABC-gear can be a real pain in the a... nose ^^ $\endgroup$
    – Bounce
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ @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. $\endgroup$
    – Peteris
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 19:51

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.


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