Gustatory sweating is sweating that occurs on the forehead, scalp, neck, and upper lip during meals. People may also experience this sweating after eating.

For many people, sweating occurs due to eating hot and spicy food. However, for others, it occurs frequently after eating any food.

In these cases where eating any food causes sweating, it is most likely due to nerve damage in or around the parotid gland, which is the gland in the cheek that produces saliva. When this occurs, it tends to happen on one side of the face and is known as Frey’s syndrome.

In some rare cases, people with diabetes mellitus may experience bilateral gustatory sweating, which involves sweating on both sides of the face.

In this article, we compare gustatory sweating with regular sweating and explore methods to treat or prevent it.

A man at the dinner table sweating after eating. -1Share on Pinterest
1266081916 Edwin Tan/Getty Images

It is not uncommon for people to sweat during or after eating. Most individuals sweat on the face, scalp, or neck when they are eating spicy or hot foods and drinks.

In these cases, the person’s body is responding naturally to a rise in body temperature through sweat. This is a typical reaction and not a cause for concern.

However, gustatory sweating could also be the result of a different underlying condition, such as diabetes mellitus or Frey’s syndrome.

Frey’s syndrome is sweating due to nerve damage to the parotid gland. It develops on one side of the face in the area of the affected parotid gland.

Some possible causes of Frey’s syndrome include:

  • surgery involving the parotid gland
  • direct injury to the parotid gland
  • jaw fracture
  • infection
  • salivary gland removal surgery
  • surgery that removes lymph nodes in the neck

Learn more about diabetes and unusual sweating.

Treatment for gustatory sweating depends on what is causing it.

Generally, a doctor treating Frey’s syndrome focuses on the symptoms. However, there are limited options for correcting the damaged nerves.

Surgical procedures are available to try to fix the nerves in the face and neck area. These techniques can also remove the affected skin and replace it with a skin graft. However, these surgeries pose risks, and doctors do not often advise them.

A doctor may prescribe medicines and topical creams that help block unwanted nervous system activities, such as sweating.

However, one medication that doctors can use to treat Frey’s syndrome sweating is botulinum toxin type A (Botox). They inject this medication into the affected area to stop the sweating.

One disadvantage of botulinum toxin is that the effects are temporary. Research shows that people tend to need repeat injections after 9–12 months.

Possible side effects of botulinum toxin include facial weakness or paralysis, eyelid drooping, localized pain, swelling, skin discoloration or inflammation, or bruising.

People who suspect their gustatory sweating is due to an underlying condition need to consult a doctor about whether managing the condition will help with the sweating. They can also discuss whether additional sweating-specific treatments are necessary.

Preventing sweating after eating depends on the underlying cause.

For someone who experiences typical gustatory sweating, such as when eating hot or spicy foods, avoiding these types of foods may be enough to prevent sweating during and after meals.

Botox treatment for Frey’s syndrome can prevent the sweating, and a doctor can also prescribe medication to block the body’s sweating response.

For people with diabetes, adequately managing their condition may help prevent unwanted symptoms, such as sweating during meals.

Gustatory sweating is similar to Frey’s syndrome, and doctors often use the two terms interchangeably.

A person with Frey’s syndrome has an issue with their parotid gland and may start to sweat and flush on the scalp, face, ears, and neck after eating any food. However, foods that make people produce a lot of saliva are most likely to trigger the reaction.

Typically, a person develops Frey’s syndrome due to surgery near the parotid gland. However, others may experience Frey’s syndrome due to another injury or infection that affects the parotid gland.

In an attempt to heal themselves, damaged nerves sometimes get mixed up with other nerves, causing a person to produce sweat instead of saliva.

Typically, Frey’s syndrome occurs on just one side of the face. Although both cheeks have a parotid gland, only one may have been damaged.

In Frey’s syndrome, sweating typically occurs in the cheeks, forehead, and around the ears.

Unlike Frey’s syndrome, other types of gustatory sweating often occur on both sides of the face. Unlike regular sweating from eating spicy or hot foods, gustatory sweating causes a person to sweat and flush after eating, thinking, or even talking about food.

This sweating and flushing may occur around the temples, cheeks, neck, forehead, chest, or lips.

A person can talk with a doctor to find out what may be causing the sweating.

A person may need to contact a doctor about excessive sweating if:

  • at-home remedies are not helping
  • it has lasted for at least 6 months
  • it interferes with daily activities
  • it occurs once a week or more
  • it happens at night, which people call night sweats
  • there is a family history of excessive sweating
  • they are taking medication for another condition

Doctors consider Frey’s syndrome a harmless condition. Some people find that they can deal with the symptoms with no need for medical intervention.

Where the sweating is profuse and a cause for embarrassment, people may want to treat their symptoms.

It is also important that people seek medical attention if profuse sweating is unexplainable, as it could indicate an underlying condition.

Sometimes, sweating can occur in response to eating certain types of food. It can sometimes occur due to Frey’s syndrome, which is a generally harmless condition.

Sweating after eating can also be due to other conditions, such as diabetes.

Excessive sweating may indicate an issue that warrants a medical evaluation, so it is best to contact a doctor if a person has concerns about their symptoms.