Q. My husband gets a runny nose each and every time he sits down to eat, and we are stymied as to why. He has consulted two doctors, but nothing they prescribed has helped.
We cannot sit down for a decent dinner anywhere, whether at home, friends’ homes or restaurants. We are both frustrated over this attack. It causes him much grief and interferes with him eating enough.
I hope you can give us a reasonable answer or suggest a cure.

A. Doctors call this condition “gustatory rhinitis.” It means runny nose triggered by eating.
Some physicians prescribe a nasal spray containing ipratropium (Atrovent). Others prefer to use antihistamines.
Irish doctors have experimented with botulinum toxin (Botox) injections, but the FDA has not approved this treatment for runny nose (Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, Sept. 2008). Keeping a food diary may help identify particular foods that make this reaction worse.

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  1. Betty

    Was their any association with a heart problem?

  2. Betsy

    My husband gets overpowering sleepiness, almost like he has been medicated, whenever he eats. It doesn’t seem to matter what or when. Could eating release a chemical that could cause this?

  3. Comp K.
    Vancouver BC

    Great Publication

  4. Paula

    I think it just has to do with the chewing motion.

    Of course eating spicy and/or hot temperature foods would make it worse, but I’ve noticed when I get facial massages, the vibration will make my nose run.

    I think mucus inside the sinuses is always present and at the ready for whatever need may arise – crying, allergies, some other irritant – and chewing falls into that category for some people.

    If I’ve taken allergy medicine, and my sinuses are dryer, then I don’t experience a runny nose, even if I’m eating a spicy or hot temperature item.

  5. kenneth r.

    I didn’t have a clue I could get something for this…. I am 36 years old and just…… wow I will have to check this out.

  6. SDF

    My sinuses open up whenever I eat. My nose runs, and I often get a post-nasal drip so that mucous fills my throat. Besides having to constantly blow my nose, I also then have to constantly clear my throat. Goes away after a while, but is annoying to me and embarrassing when I have this happen at restaurants. Also find that weather change, particularly when it quickly gets cold outside, brings on a terrible, chronic-like drip. makes me cough repeatedly and have to clear my throat repeatedly as well.
    Had been using Astelin spray, which helps, but doesn’t totally work. usually end up spraying my nose and take claritin at same time. Helps somewhat, but the problem seems to be worsening. Would appreciate any possible ideas, remedies, etc.

  7. Big D :-S

    My Dad is 74 he has a severe nose running problem, its been going on for a couple years, he can not eat anything without his nose dripping constantly. I have tried Benadryl and Claritin each for a couple weeks with no sign of relief, I need to know what else to try, it only happens when he eats but with everything he eats. Is there any OTC options or do we need a prescription? He is so over this and I feel helpless, HELP!!!! Please??

  8. JE

    The runny nose while eating and having sex we have experienced also. It doesn’t occur every time. It is never dull being a human being!:)

    • Joan

      My husband is always apologizing for his runny nose while we are eating. The discharge is clear and keeps coming. Should we see an ENT doctor?

  9. Holly

    It is not OTC but the generic version called ipratropium nasal spray is very cheap from most drug/medical plans (e.g., 3 month supply by mail costs $7)

  10. HOLLY

    I have been using ipratropium nasal spray for 20 years for rhinitis. My nose used to run all the time. No Dr. could figure out why. Before using ipratropium nasal spray, I could go nowhere without Kleenex. Now my nose does not run. I use it twice a day. Try it.

  11. Gerri M

    This happens to me, my brother, both of our children. I think it is because of the position of your head when you eat. Usually it is bent downward and lets your sinus start to drip. Also the motion of your chewing has something to do with it.Sit in a chair, chew some gum, bend your head downward and pretty soon you will need a tissue. Gerri M

  12. Eleanor K.

    I have suffered from this annoying condition all my life. I now have a name for it. I can also add it to the numerous other causes – going from temperature changes inside and outside, wheat, and general dry air. But I have had sinus conditions for years and had two deviated septum surgeries, neither of which worked. I now use saline with a nose washer I got at Duke ENT to prevent infections – originally it was prescribed with gentamycine, but to avoid overuse of anti-biotics, I dropped it and just use the saline. As for the mealtime problem, carry lots of kleenexes. Ellie K.

  13. DLS

    Every time I eat at a restaurant or at home where my husband slings black pepper all over his food… I begin to sneeze and my nose runs. Black pepper apparently floats in the air to some sensitive nose and does its thing!

  14. Mhadams

    My husband’s nose also runs when he eats, but we found out that is is caused by allergies to the foods that he eats. We had him allergy tested and he was allergic to tomatoes, milk, etc but only when mixed with other foods. He just takes a Benadryl and he can enjoy the foods that he is allergic to. He also had the option of getting allergy shots. You may want to consider getting allergy tested too.

  15. KER

    I have had a “drippy” nose all my life and finally, through Nutrition Response Testing, discovered that I am sensitive (not allergic) to wheat. My nose starts to run almost as soon as I eat wheat products. If I avoid wheat I don’t have the problem. I use rice bread or pure rye bread and try to stay away from pastas. Others may have a different sensitivity but that is one of mine. You can check out Nutrition Response Testing on the internet to see if there is a practitioner in your area. It discovers the root cause of health problems rather than just try to fix the symptoms. My test was $49.

  16. MKM

    This started happening to me about 10-15 years ago with ALL food that I eat; I am a 60 year old male. No known cause or cure. I just blow my nose when I am done eating.

  17. Kim B

    This is odd because my husband’s nose starts running during sex. I am not kidding! It interferes with that and we are baffled about the cause, since no food is involved. So I personally think runny nose has more to do with something other than food.
    Whatever triggers my husbands nose to run during sex, must trigger others sitting down to eat.

  18. bob

    I, my Dad, & Grandpa all had the same problem. It doesn’t bother me much.

  19. Naomi F. B.

    When my doc said I had gustatory rhinitis, I thought he was kidding around:
    such an elegant name for a recurring runny nose.
    Well, it’s gone now. I used antihistamines for a while. It went as it came – who knows why. But, don’t fight it; stifle it with an OTC anti-histamine.

  20. LNW

    This used to happen to me and no longer does after I was tested by my dentist for dental allergies. Turns out I am allergic to stainless steel and every time I put a fork or spoon in my mouth, my allergy was set off. Now, after having gotten rid of all stainless in my food preparation and only eating non-processed foods (which usually have been processed with stainless), I eat without the runny nose and I no longer have mouth sores which used to arise also.

  21. ebm

    I wonder if putting a piece of tissue inside the nostril before sitting down to dinner
    would prevent the food smells from triggering a response from the nasal tissues/lining.
    It’s hard to chew that way without breathing through the nose, it’s worth a try at home.

  22. Fatima

    Keeping a food journal is an excellent suggestion. Does your husband consume a lot of dairy (including butter and cheese)? If he does, he may want to cut it out completely from his diet for a week and see if that helps. Bananas are also a mucus producing food. Many people eat them regularly throughout the year in North America.
    Another suggestion – now that it’s spring – would be to drink dandelion root tea (you can try Traditional Medicinals – they are a good company). Traditionally, this tea has been used during the spring to drain the lymphatic system due to mucus build up in the winter months.
    Good Luck!

  23. Shari

    This happens to both my husband and me. We think the chewing motions, and probably the heat from the food we’re eating activate it. I can’t really say it’s a problem, we just always have tissue on us! Maybe ours is not as bad as the writer above?

  24. crandreww

    I would suggest seeing a Naturopath or Alternative Medicine Clinic for food allergy testing. My 11 year old son was having very similar episodes, took him to his Pediatrician, who sent us to an Allergist… found nothing, however she did not test food sensitivities… which you would think they would have for $700 dollars…. ended up consulting an Alternative medicine provider who immediately suspected food allergies…. and tested him which came back highly reactive to Gluten, Egg, Soy… which is in most prepared foods. Testing cost about 200 bucks, and our insurance does not cover but it was the best 200 bucks we spent… now we know to read labels and we can enjoy our meals together! Good Luck!

  25. CM

    I have a similar problem, except my nose itches like crazy whenever I eat at a restaurant. The only thing that helps me is to hold an ice cube wrapped in a napkin up to my nose.

  26. A

    It happens to me too. I can’t seem to pinpoint a food or group of foods that triggers it either.
    It truly is bothersome.

  27. Julie

    This has been happening to me for years and I finally found out what it was called about a year ago. Within a few minutes of eating nuts I’m reaching for a tissue. Since I don’t have any other reaction I continue to eat them for their health benefits.

  28. SH

    Astelin (azelastine HCL) is an effective antihistamine for rhinitis induced by eating (also effective for allergic rhinitis). It is a nasal spray, which is similar to Afrin in it’s effectiveness, but not habit forming.
    You have to be careful when taking it to only gently sniff the medication up into the nose, then let the excess drip out into a tissue (if you sniff it back into the throat you will likely find it to have an unpleasant bitter taste).
    Worth learning how to use it, since it works!

  29. kenju

    This happens to me as well, and it was also a problem for my dad. There is no one food that causes it – everything does. I hope Atrovent is OTC.

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