04/12/2014 12:26 pm ET Updated Apr 12, 2014

Scientists May Have Figured Out Why We Get The Sniffles

moodboard via Getty Images

While runny nose is a common symptom of allergies, about a quarter of cases of nasal inflammation have nothing to do with allergies and are instead triggered by things like spicy foods, odors, inhaled irritants and even strong emotions.

And now, we may be a step closer to understanding why these non-allergy sniffles happen.

Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine have identified cells, called solitary chemosensory cells, that are present in the nasal lining of mice. When potential irritants are sensed by these cells, a message is sent to nerve terminals that triggers a chain reaction, eventually leading to an inflammatory response in the form of a runny nose.

Further studies are needed to find if this exact chain of events also occurs in humans, researchers noted. The new findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.