A stroke can make it harder to sense the food in your mouth and move the food to the back of your throat to swallow. Choking can result when food is not properly pushed to the back of the mouth and down into the esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth and stomach). Every stroke is different. A speech therapist can evaluate you to see which parts of swallowing have been affected. You can start treatment and start using choking prevention strategies.
After being diagnosed with dysphagia(difficulty swallowing) due to a stroke, you may be shown different techniques to help prevent choking. For all patients, sitting up at 90 degrees and eating small bites that are thoroughly chewed will help reduce choking. If you have difficulty swallowing liquids, thickening agents can help you swallow liquids better. Straws are helpful to reduce choking on liquids, as well. For some patients, it is best to only eat pureed foods, like mashed potatoes. All food can be blended before eating to help keep adequate nutrition. In addition, only eat when fully awake and with limited distractions so you can focus on the swallowing process. A caregiver should always be with or help patients who need assistance eating.
Another strategy to prevent choking is called a chin-tuck maneuver. This helps to slow down the passage of food to the esophagus to allow time for the epiglottis (tissue covering the airway) to close over the airway. Here is how to perform a chin tuck, and a speech therapist can demonstrate it as well. While sitting up at 90-degree angle, chew food as you normally would. Immediately before swallowing the food, drop your chin down to your chest and then swallow. You would do this with each bite and drink.
All stroke patients can be at risk for choking, so it is important to watch for signs of choking. While coughing is a sign of choking, most choking is silent. Having a caregiver around during meals can help keep potential choking from becoming a medical emergency. Here are common signs of choking:
If you or a person you are caring for has difficulty swallowing or has these signs of choking, seek medical attention.
No matter how vigilant you are, the risk of choking will remain. Our easy-to-use first aid device can unblock a person’s airway quickly in an unexpected emergency, when time is critical. Appropriate for adults and children age 12 or older, the Dechoker for adults can help you be prepared and offer you peace of mind.
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