Eye, Ear, Nose. Throat

My Nose Runs All the Time!

If you’re like me, you’re plagued by a constantly runny nose. It’s very annoying and interrupts anything I do. It’s especially irritating at meal time. Regardless of what I eat, my nose will run “like a sugar tree.” My late father-in-law always used that expression for the drippy nose he constantly fought. Until I got old myself, it was hard to empathize with this problem. Because it runs so much, wiping one’s nose on your sleeve, hand, handkerchief, Kleenex, or even your napkin, as you eat, becomes an art form.

Rhinorrhea is the fancy term for runny nose. It is a symptom of a problem called rhinitis, or inflammation (itis) of the nose (rhin).

There are several types of Rhinitis:

1. Allergy-mediated, or Allergic Rhinitis

2. Non allergy-mediated, Non-Allergic RhinitisAllergic Rhinitis is Seasonal (Hayfever) or Perennial (chronic, year round)

Non-Allergic Rhinitis has several subgroups:

A. Vasomotor Rhinitis-due to congested nasal blood vessels

B. Infectious Rhinitis-due to viruses, bacteria

C. Atrophic Rhinitis-due to thinning of nasal membranes

D. Rhinitis Medicamentosa-due to overuse of nasal sprays, nasal decongestants, cocaine,


E. Gustatory Rhinitis-due to ingestion of food triggers

Gustatory Rhinitis is the culprit here. It is most commonly associated with hot, spicy foods, but just about any food can trigger the symptoms. Hot peppers, garlic, curry, salsa, hot sauce, chili powder, ginger, coffee, tea, chocolate, vinegar, tomatoes, ginger, other spices, and citrus fruits are common offenders. Apparently, irritating chemicals in these foods set off the overproduction of mucus and fluid by the cells of the nasal lining (mucus membranes) resulting in the very annoying symptom of a runny nose. Once the offending agent is no longer introduced into the body, the rhinorrhea gradually lessens. Physical activity also triggers this phenomenon.

So what can one do to prevent this or stop it? Well, simply avoiding the foods that cause the symptoms is one option, but there are so many possible causes, avoidance is relatively ineffective. The best treatment is pre-treatment. In other words, using something before the symptom occurs works best. That something is a nasal spray called ipratropium bromide (Atrovent). It is an atropine-like chemical whose affect is to dry up mucous membrane secretions when applied/sprayed into the nose. Sprayed into each nostril a few minutes before eating, or before activity,one should get the desired relief, allowing one to eat uninterrupted. Older folks are bothered by gustatory rhinitis quite often so this easy solution makes mealtime much more enjoyable.

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