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Why Does My Nose Run After Eating Certain Foods, Especially Spicy Foods?

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Updated April 04, 2008

Question: Why Does My Nose Run After Eating Certain Foods, Especially Spicy Foods?
Answer: I absolutely love spicy foods, particular hot Mexican food. However, every time I eat it, my nose runs like a faucet. To me, this is just part of the whole experience of eating this type of food. I do have some patients, on the other hand, who are embarrassed about these same symptoms; so much in fact, that they avoid eating in public places because their symptoms are so severe that they need to carry a handkerchief to the restaurant.

When a person gets a runny nose after eating certain foods, particularly spicy foods, it’s not likely due to allergies. Instead, these symptoms are likely due to a form of non-allergic rhinitis called gustatory rhinitis. While the symptoms of food allergies can include a runny nose, people who experience gustatory rhinitis do not experience other symptoms such as hives, nausea, or trouble breathing.

Just about any kind of food can cause gustatory rhinitis; spicy foods are the most common, including chili peppers, horseradish, black pepper and onion. Most people who experience gustatory rhinitis will have symptoms of clear, thin nasal discharge(the “sniffles”) almost immediately after eating the trigger food. Sneezing and watery eyes may occur, but usually there is no itching of the eyes, nose or mouth. The symptoms usually go away within a few minutes once the person stops eating the trigger food.

For people who are bothered by symptoms of gustatory rhinitis, the use of Nasal Atrovent (ipratropium bromide nasal spray) can help to prevent and treat the symptoms. I recommend to my patients to place 1 or 2 sprays in each nostril about an hour before eating spicy foods in order to prevent the symptoms from occurring.

Sources:

Waibal KH, Chang C. Prevalence and Food Avoidance Behaviors for Gustatory Rhinitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2008; 100:200-5.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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  5. Allergies -- Runny Nose with Eating Spicy Foods -- Gustatory Rhinitis

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