Eating and drinking are among life’s greatest pleasures. They’re also vital for staying alive! But when swallowing becomes difficult, it’s downright frightening.
The occasional catch in your throat when you eat too fast or don’t chew your food enough is not usually the cause for concern (although you might want to slow down!). If this happens frequently, then it can be a sign of a serious and possibly life-threatening condition, called dysphagia.
Ongoing dysphagia is a sign something’s not right with your throat or oesophagus. Although far more common in people with a brain injury or nervous system disorder (such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease), swallowing difficulties can happen to anyone.
If you sometimes find yourself coughing, gagging, or dribbling when eating or drinking, or if your dinner often goes down the wrong way, it’s best to get checked out.
Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, random bits of food or drink getting into your lungs can cause nasty problems like pneumonia (which can knock you off your feet for weeks!)
Other signs to look out for:
- Not getting food or drink down on the first try
- Gagging or coughing when you swallow
- Having food or drink come back up after you swallow
- Feeling like what you’ve swallowed is stuck in your throat
- Stomach acid in your throat or chest including heartburn
- Trouble controlling saliva in your mouth
- Needing to cough or clear your throat during or after eating
- Getting recurring chest infections
Although dysphagia usually affects older people, babies can get it too – make sure you watch out for signs of difficulty sucking during feeding.