A turbinate is a long, narrow, curled bone that protrudes into the nasal cavity. Each turbinate is covered with mucosa. The side walls of the nose each have three turbinates called the superior, middle and inferior turbinates. The turbinates enlarge or shrink alternately on each side of the nose at regular intervals.
The space between each turbinate is called a meatus, and each meatus is named for the turbinate above it. The inferior turbinate is the largest turbinate, which runs parallel to the floor of the nose. The nasolacrimal duct (tear duct) drains tears into the inferior meatus, which explains why people develop a runny nose when they cry.
The middle turbinate is located above the inferior turbinate. The majority of the sinuses drain into the middle meatus through small openings called ostea. The superior turbinate, which is the smallest turbinate, is located above the middle turbinate.