Q: I would like to know why my nose runs whenever I eat or drink. This has been occurring for a number of years and is very disturbing and embarrassing. I don’t have any allergies or an ongoing cold. I am a junior senior, in reasonably good health, of average height and weight, and do not take any medications. What is the cause and how can this be remedied — preferably without medication? —Judy Noy
A: There is a technical term for what you’re experiencing: gustatory rhinitis. “Rhinitis” is the fancy word for runny nose, and “gustatory” is relating to food and tasting—in short, gustatory rhinitis means the mucous membranes in your nasal passages get irritated when you eat or drink, resulting in the kind of unpleasant symptoms you’re describing.
“Gustatory rhinitis is usually associated with hot or spicy foods, but it can be a whole bunch of different foods that are causing it,” said Dr. Alexis Jackman, a rhinologist at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant professor at Einstein College of Medicine. “For most patients it’s not [too] problematic, just a nuisance.”
Gustatory rhinitis is more common among smokers and those with a history of smoking, she said, and while the symptoms resemble an allergic reaction, they’re not usually caused by allergies.
“A lot of the times it’s just a non-specific response to certain chemicals,” in food, Jackman said.
Jackman recommends “avoidance therapy,” or paying close attention to the types of foods you eat and avoiding the ones that seem to cause the worst symptoms. But since you say this is happening every time you eat or drink, she says a prescription nasal spray called Atrovent, which blocks nerve receptors in the nose that trigger the release of mucous, can be an effective remedy.
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