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Cold and Flu Center

What Causes a Runny Nose When Eating?

author image Diane Marks
Diane Marks started her writing career in 2010 and has been in health care administration for more than 30 years. She holds a registered nurse license from Citizens General Hospital School of Nursing, a Bachelor of Arts in health care education from California University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Science in health administration from the University of Pittsburgh.
What Causes a Runny Nose When Eating?
Woman with a tissue at her nose. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

A runny nose when you eat, or gustatory rhinorrhea, is still something that is considered common. If you develop a runny nose every time you eat specific foods, call your doctor to discuss the symptoms and treatment options. The runny nose may be a sign of another medical condition unrelated to eating. Common explanations for a runny nose while eating are a food allergy, the temperature of the foods and hay fever. A runny nose is treatable with diet modification and over-the-counter medications.

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Food Allergy

A common symptom of a food allergy is sinus complications. According to Medline Plus, if you have a food allergy, you can develop nasal congestion, a runny nose and excessive sneezing. The most common food allergies are to fish, nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat, eggs and milk. If you notice that you always develop a runny nose while eating a specific type of food, disclose that to your doctor. The runny nose is the result of irritation and inflammation in the sinus cavity from increased levels of histamine. When you eat something you’re allergic to, your immune system malfunctions and fails to recognize the proteins in the food as safe. The body builds up a defense, producing antibodies and histamine. These two agents are intended to protect the body from viruses, bacteria and infection. Too much histamine in the sinus cavity leads to a runny nose.


The sinus cavity is lined with mucus membranes that help keep the nasal passages moist and clear of debris. If you are already congested or have excess mucus in your sinuses before eating and you eat hot food or drink a hot beverage, the heat melts the mucus, causing a runny nose. Some spices can also affect the sinus cavity, such as cayenne pepper, chili pepper and curry powder. These spices stimulate the mucus membranes, causing them to produce excessive amounts of mucus that runs down your nostrils.

Hay Fever

If you’ve been diagnosed with hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, certain fruits and vegetables can trigger your allergy condition, causing a runny nose. According to CNN Health, new research links common tree pollen with fruits, such as apples, bananas and pears. Although the fruits and vegetables to do not contain any tree pollen, the immune system mistakes the structure of the food as tree pollen, causing common hay fever symptoms.

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