An Overview of Gustatory Rhinitis

This condition may be why your nose runs when you eat

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Gustatory rhinitis is a form of nonallergic rhinitis. It causes a runny nose when you eat certain foods.

Gustatory rhinitis is suspected when you experience thin nasal discharge (the "sniffles") almost immediately after eating the trigger food. In some cases, you may experience sneezing and watery eyes, but no itching or other symptoms.

Just about any kind of food can cause the condition. But spicy foods are common culprits. The symptoms usually go away within a few minutes once you stop eating the trigger food.

There are several possible causes of this reaction. It tends to be more common in older adults. And it often goes hand-in-hand with senile rhinitis, another form of nonallergic rhinitis.

This article explains why you sometimes get a runny nose when you eat. It will also explain what you can do to prevent or treat it.

Woman eating a taco
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Gustatory Rhinitis Symptoms

Symptoms usually happen right after you eat a trigger food. People will experience one or both of the following:

Gustatory rhinitis may be annoying but is rarely serious.

Causes

Rhinitis is a term used to describe several conditions that cause inflammation and swelling in your nose. Inflammation and swelling usually occur in the mucous membrane. While allergies are a well-known cause of rhinitis, there are also types that are due to an entirely different immune response.

Nonallergic rhinitis is often caused by an infection. But exposure to irritants can also cause nonallergic rhinitis. In the case of gustatory rhinitis, a particular food serves as an irritant. While any food can be to blame, spicy foods such as the following are usually involved:

  • Black pepper
  • Curry
  • Hot sauce
  • Chili powder
  • Hot peppers
  • Horseradish
  • Onions

Different people with gustatory rhinitis may have different trigger foods.

Diagnosis

Since there are several conditions that can cause nasal discharge, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and any history of allergies.

Allergic rhinitis, rather than nonallergic forms (like gustatory), may be suspected if your symptoms come and go. But they are generally worse during certain times of the year. Allergic rhinitis can happen because of:

It’s also possible that a food allergy is the cause of your runny nose. The symptoms of food allergies can range from mild to severe. They typically involve more than nasal congestion. Common food allergies and intolerances include:

It's common to jump to the conclusion that your runny nose after eating is due to a food allergy. But food allergies also involve symptoms such as the following:

Allergy Tests

Your doctor will consider the above factors when narrowing down a diagnosis. But in order to formally diagnose you with nonallergic rhinitis, gustatory or another type, your doctor must first rule out allergic rhinitis. The doctor does this by giving you an allergy test.

To do this, your doctor may perform:

  • Skin prick test: Also called a puncture or scratch test, this involves your doctor introducing small amounts of allergens into your system to see if/how you react.
  • Immunoglobulin E (IgE) test: This blood test can measure your immune response to allergens.

An immune response will be seen in these tests if you have allergic rhinitis, but not nonallergic rhinitis. When you have allergic rhinitis, you will experience a skin reaction to the puncture test or elevated IgE levels. If you do not have an immune response, your doctor will move on to a nonallergic rhinitis diagnosis.

When the only symptoms you have after eating food are a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing, your doctor will likely diagnose you with gustatory rhinitis.

Vasomotor rhinitis is another form of nonallergic rhinitis that can be triggered by foods. But your doctor may also tell you it's triggered by alcohol, weather changes, or hormonal changes if you also have congestion, sinus pressure, and a cough.

It is possible for someone to have both allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. This is known as mixed rhinitis.

Treatment

Because gustatory rhinitis is nonallergic, it cannot be treated with antihistamines, such as:

But you can ease most symptoms by simply avoiding your food triggers.

If you are bothered by symptoms of gustatory rhinitis, Nasal Atrovent (ipratropium bromide nasal spray) can help to prevent and treat the symptoms. One or two sprays in each nostril about an hour before eating spicy foods should do the trick.

For immediate runny nose relief, try a decongestant such as Sudafed (pseudoephedrine). Be sure to talk to your doctor about possible drug interactions before taking it.

It might take a few weeks to find the most effective treatment method for you. It may also take time to figure out exactly which foods trigger symptoms. This is especially true if they're common ingredients found in a variety of dishes.

Summary

If you sometimes get a runny nose when you eat, this is called gustatory rhinitis. It usually happens right after you eat a trigger food. Most of the time, spicy foods are the cause of gustatory rhinitis.

If you go to the doctor, they will ask about your symptoms and whether you have a history of allergies. Sometimes, the doctor will give you an allergy test. If you do not have an immune response to the allergy test, your doctor will usually diagnose you with nonallergic rhinitis.

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13 Sources
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