People eating spicy food that can affect their eyes, ears, nose, and throat

Are you a fan of spicy food? Adding ingredients like peppers and chili powder can make a dish more flavorful, whether you like it mild, medium, or hot. However, that boost in flavor profile could have some noticeable effects on your eyes, ears, nose, and throat.

Effects on your eyes

You may have seen videos online of people eating hot wings with tears in their eyes. That response is because of the capsaicin found in the membrane of the pepper that causes irritation in the eyes, leading to a watery response. If the capsaicin makes direct contact with your eyes, it can cause swelling, redness, and pain. That is why it is very important to wash your hands after handling peppers or use gloves with spicier varieties.

Effects on your ears

Believe it or not, eating spicy food can affect your ears as well. When you consume hot food, it can act as a stimulant that opens up blood vessels and increase your overall body temperature. That change can be felt in your ears, leading to a familiar itchy and warm feeling. Some people have even recounted temporary deafness and tinnitus from eating extremely spicy ingredients.

Effects on your nose

One common response to eating or even smelling spicy food is a runny nose. That same capsaicin that causes watery eyes can inflame the mucus membranes in your nose and create thinner mucus. This can clear up nasal congestion, which could be useful if you are sick or experiencing a stuffy nose. However, there is also the likelihood that it could exacerbate your condition depending on your body’s tolerance for sauces and peppers.

Dr. Michael Sicard, a CEENTA otolaryngologist and hot pepper aficionado at our Matthews office, can testify to how spicy foods can impact your nasal passages. “With our renowned Carolina Reaper, the Charlotte area knows its fair share about bringing the heat. The downside is that peppers like this can cause an undesirable bout of runny nose due to the thinner mucus."

Effects on your throat

Your voice can be altered by enjoying hot wings or spicy curry. Capsaicin can inflame your vocal cords and create a hoarser voice along with additional pain. Along with irritating your throat, those who frequently have acid reflux (GERD) might not like the additional side effects that spicy foods bring. High spice levels can cause your stomach acid to flow back up to your esophagus and create symptoms like hiccups, dry cough, and wheezing.

Adding extra spice to your favorite dishes can add some enjoyment to your meal, but it can also lead to some unsavory consequences for your eyes, ears, nose, and throat. Whether or not your symptoms are caused by the things you eat, it’s always important to get checked out by an ophthalmologist and an otolaryngologist like Dr. Sicard. CEENTA offers a wide spectrum of eye and ENT services across nearly twenty offices in the Carolinas. Schedule your next appointment with CEENTA today for a well-balanced approach to your health. 

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New patients can make appointments online with our eye and ENT doctors in North and South Carolina and call 704-295-3300 to schedule for our audiologists. Current patients can also make appointments through myCEENTAchart with physicians they have already seen.


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