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Path to Dysphagia Diagnosis
  • Writer's pictureCarinda Stout, MS CCC/SLP

Is a Runny Nose a Reliable Indication of Dysphagia?

While a person who is aspirating may have a runny nose, watery eyes, and cough, the presence of only a runny nose while eating is not a predictor of dysphagia. It’s called gustatory rhinitis, and it’s completely normal, especially while eating hot and/or spicy food.

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. This condition tends to be more common in older adults.

Rhinitis is a term used to describe several conditions that cause inflammation and swelling in your nose (specifically, of the mucous membrane). While many associate rhinitis with allergies, there are also types that are due to an entirely different immune response.

Nonallergic rhinitis is often due to an infection, but it can also be owed to exposure to irritants. In the case of gustatory rhinitis, a particular food (or foods) serves as the 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

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