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Having a runny nose after eating is usually associated with eating spicy food, but there are many other reasons that your nose can run while eating. Some have nothing to do with the type of food but instead are symptoms of other conditions.
The medical term for a runny nose is rhinorrhea. A person’s nose might run after eating because they have food allergies, which is called allergic rhinitis.
If a person’s nose runs without their having a food allergy, this is called gustatory rhinitis, which is a type of non-allergic rhinitis.
This article discusses the many causes of a runny nose while eating.
A person may experience a runny nose and other symptoms either after eating a particular kind of food or, in some cases, after eating any food.
A runny nose may be accompanied by the following symptoms:
- a stuffy, congested feeling in the nose
- postnasal drip, or excess mucus in the back of the throat
Some people may experience a runny nose due to the food they ate, a food allergy, seasonal allergies, and other causes. Read on for a list of possible causes for a person to experience a runny nose after eating.
When a person’s nose runs after eating without any other symptoms of an allergic reaction occurring, this is referred to as gustatory rhinitis.
Gustatory rhinitis affects many people after they eat hot or spicy foods. When a person eats these foods, a nerve called the trigeminal sensory nerve is stimulated, which causes the nose to run.
A person may prevent gustatory rhinitis by avoiding trigger foods. If their nose runs after eating any food, they can take certain medications to manage their symptoms. One such medication is topical intranasal atropine.
Allergic rhinitis is a condition affecting up to 60 million people within the United States. People can experience it seasonally or all year round.
Typically, an environmental trigger can trigger symptoms, such as dust mites, pollen, or pet dander. Some people may have this kind of allergic reaction to certain types of food.
Allergic rhinitis can cause the following symptoms:
- a runny or stuffy nose
- itchy eyes, mouth, throat, or skin
- dry eyes
- watering eyes
While food allergies do not typically cause a runny nose, they can cause nasal congestion and other symptoms that typically appear within 2 hours of eating a particular food.
Severe food allergies are a medical emergency.
Food allergy symptoms may range from mild to severe, and may include:
- nasal congestion
- wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath
- throat tightening or a raspy, hoarse voice
- itchy skin
- a tingling or itching sensation in the mouth
- facial swelling, including the lips, face, tongue, and throat
- body swelling
In severe cases, a food allergy may cause anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Common food allergy triggers include:
- shellfish and other fish
- peanuts and tree nuts
Vasomotor rhinitis, also called idiopathic rhinitis, is a type of runny nose that is not triggered by an allergen but by certain environmental and physical changes that cause the lining of the nose to become swollen.
Triggers that may bring on vasomotor rhinitis include:
- certain odors, such as perfume, cigarette smoke, and inks
- weather changes, including temperature, humidity, and air pressure
- hormonal changes
- bright lights
- changes in emotions
- eating certain foods, such as alcohol and spicy foods
Alongside a runny nose, those with vasomotor rhinitis may experience symptoms such as:
- postnasal drip
- feeling pressure in the face
If a person suspects that a food allergy or allergic rhinitis is the cause of their runny nose, a doctor may perform the following tests:
- A skin prick test, also called a patch test, where the skin is pricked with an allergen to check for a skin reaction.
- An intradermal test, where the skin is injected with an allergen to check for a skin reaction.
- A blood test, such as RAST or ELISA, which checks a person’s blood for antibodies that are related to specific allergens.
If the cause of a person’s symptoms is found to be non-allergic, a person may have gustatory rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis.
Treatment of rhinitis will depend on several factors, including the trigger for the condition and any other accompanying medical conditions.
A person may be able to prevent the symptoms of allergic rhinitis by avoiding the specific triggers that they are allergic to. A doctor can help to find out which substances a person is allergic to by performing skin or blood tests.
People can treat both allergic and non-allergic rhinitis in the following ways:
- Decongestants. Decongestant medication can reduce symptoms of a blocked or stuffy nose. They can help with allergic reactions and sinusitis.
- Antihistamines. The most common treatment for allergic reactions is antihistamines, which are available online as tablets, nasal sprays, eye drops, and creams.
- Nasal sprays containing decongestants or corticosteroids may also be useful for relieving a runny nose and other sinus-related problems.
- Immunotherapy. A doctor may recommend immunotherapy for severe allergies, where a person is desensitized to an allergen.
Decongestants are not recommended for everyone. A person should talk to their doctor before taking these medications if they are pregnant or have one of the following conditions:
If a person has severe allergies, they may need to carry around an epinephrine shot for emergency use.
There are many reasons why a person might experience a runny nose while eating. Some causes are allergic reactions while others are unrelated to an allergy.
A person should speak with a healthcare provider, such as an allergist, to help determine the cause, especially if it could be an environmental or food allergy.
The outlook for those with rhinitis depends on the cause and severity of the condition. Certain allergies can be life-threatening and require close monitoring.
Many over-the-counter and prescription treatments exist to treat rhinitis. However, results of treatment may vary.
In the presence of a severe allergy, extreme caution should be taken to avoid the trigger, especially if the allergy may cause a severe reaction.