Spicy Food and Runny Noses


Dear ER Doc,

Why dose my nose run when I eat spicy foods?

Steve’s Mom, Southern California




I will admit that I have never seen a patient come to the ER for this problem, but it’s a good question nevertheless.  And if I had a runny nose when eating spicy foods, this would limit my diet significantly, so we should get to the bottom of it right now.  Fortunately, this condition has a medical name to make doctors sound smart, and it is called “gustatory rhinitis.”  What happens is that spicy foods contain capsaicin, an irritating chemical found in peppers.  This substance also is the primary irritant in pepper spray.  It acts directly on nerves and causes an inflammatory response, which releases fluid from nearby blood vessels.  The blood vessels in the nose are very close to the surface, and so fluid leaks right out of them.  Your best bet is avoiding spicy foods, although some researchers have used topical atropine to reduce the effect.

My advice?  Tone down the spice!  Or bring tissue to Mexican restaurants with you.


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{ 1 trackback }

Funny article about spicy food and runny noses… « Food, Friends, & Photos
03.30.11 at 2:26 pm

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

aileen 01.07.09 at 10:35 pm

I should say indian restaurant also to avoided : )

carlos 12.29.09 at 10:04 am

this is so true!!!

i just realized i am with an incredible runny nose since yesterday and I had spicy food for dinner yesterday! it was kind of scratching my throat and now my nose does not stop running!!

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