Since I’ve had this problem as long as I can remember, this research immediately caught my attention. My first mother-in-law you to say this happened in fair complexioned people.
Every time I set the table, there are two napkins; one on the table to wipe my mouth and one in my pocket to wipe my nose, which is likely to run during mealtime. While I accept this as a reality for me, I can’t help but wonder from time to time; why does my nose run when I eat?
It turns out I am not alone in this experience, though the prevalence of my condition is currently unknown, a study conducted in 2022 noted this happened in roughly 4 percent of 558 participants. 19 percent went unclassified.
If like me, you also experience a runny nose when you eat, there’s a medical term for the condition. It’s called gustatory rhinitis. While you may notice it most when eating spicy foods, it can occur no matter what you eat.
Why Does My Nose Run When I Eat?
Now that we know it has a name, why does gustatory rhinitis occur? According to Dr. Tania Elliott, MD, a medical expert, it all comes down to mucus.
“Gustatory rhinitis is caused because the heat or spice triggers mucosal cells that are lining the nasal passages to activate and stimulate mucus production,” explains Dr. Elliot. “Mucus is produced as a mechanism to try to protect the body from harmful substances.”
Researchers note that common foods that may trigger your nose to run when you eat include, hot chili peppers, red cayenne, tabasco sauce, onion, chili, vinegar, red pepper, and mustard, though it of course is not limited to this list.
My love of hot spices seems to be the cause of my situation.
The same review notes that a diagnosis of gustatory rhinitis involves eliminating other diagnoses, and if you have idiopathic gustatory rhinitis – which occurs without a causal event – both nostrils will run. The three other types of gustatory rhinitis – post-traumatic, post-surgical and gustatory rhinorrhea associated with cranial nerve neuropathy – can occur in one or both nostrils.
It should be noted that gustatory rhinitis is different from when your nose runs because you are eating soup, or something that is hot in temperature. According to experts in the field, this occurs because of the condensation of the steam vapors and is not related to inflammation.
While gustatory rhinitis can happen to people of any age – researchers suggest a prevalence in the ages 20-60. It is said that it seems to happen more commonly in the elderly.
Is Gustatory Rhinitis an Allergy?
While it would be understandable to think that gustatory rhinitis occurs because of an allergy, it isn’t, and this is important to note because it means that treatment is different. It’s a type of nonallergic rhinitis, where your nose develops inflammation but not because of an allergy.
Unlike other allergies, researchers note that gustatory rhinitis is not associated with other symptoms including sneezing, congestion, or sinus pain; mucus is simply produced which causes the nose to run.
How Can I Stop My Nose from Running When I eat?
Research suggests the simplest way to stop your nose from running when you eat is to eliminate trigger foods. While not an allergy, a nasal spray may also help.
Personally, I have no intention of eliminating “trigger foods”.
“You would not take the usual allergy medications for this problem, however there is an effective nasal spray called nasal ipratropium,” instructs Dr. Voigt. “This prescription medicine is available in 0.3% or 0.6% solutions and relieves a runny nose. You spray it into your nose to stop the glands from producing a large amount of fluid.”
The good news is that gustatory rhinitis is not serious and is unlikely to be a sign of something more serious going on (that is, unless it comes with additional symptoms). “If you have chronic nasal drainage, especially if it is coming mostly out of one nostril, whether you eat or not, it could be a sign of something more serious that needs to be further evaluated by a doctor,” shares Dr. Elliott.
That’s it for now my friends; see you all the next time.