One of the most common causes of choking is called dysphagia, or trouble swallowing. This disorder occurs more often in elderly people, contributing to that group’s high choking rates, but it can occur at any age. If you or a loved one think you may be developing dysphagia, it’s important to look out for some early warning signs to help with choking prevention.
Here are some signs you may be developing a swallowing disorder:
- Coughing or gagging often while eating
- Gurgling, wet sound in the voice after eating or drinking
- Drooling while not eating or having food or liquid leak from the mouth while eating
- A noticeable amount of extra effort or time needed to chew and swallow foods that you’ve never had trouble with in the past
- Frequent heartburn, or having food or stomach acid back up into your throat often
- The sensation of food being stuck deep in your throat, in the chest or breastbone region
If you experience some or all of these symptoms, or if you feel that in general swallowing is more difficult or uncomfortable than it used to be, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about it. Diagnosis is usually done through referral to a speech-language pathologist, or SLP, who may perform a barium swallow study or an endoscopic test.
In addition to the general discomfort and inconvenience, having trouble swallowing can lead to some serious health risks. These include the following:
Choking: One of the most dangerous risks that comes along with swallowing disorders is that of choking. People with dysphagia are far more likely to choke on food and even on water, which can be fatal if first aid is not delivered quickly. People can take some choking prevention measures such as always eating while sitting upright, avoiding certain high-risk foods and cutting bites of food very small, but the risk remains. This is why we recommend people with swallowing disorders keep The Dechoker device nearby. Should a choking emergency occur and traditional first-aid treatments such as the Heimlich maneuver prove unsuccessful, The Dechoker is an excellent alternative. Nursing home facilities in Europe have recently documented dozens of life-saving cases with our device. If dysphagia affects you or your loved ones, we encourage your family to learn more about The Dechoker.
Respiratory illness: People with swallowing disorders often aspirate food and liquid. This means small bits are inhaled into the lungs while eating or drinking, which can cause harmful buildup over time. Inflammation is common, often leading to serious respiratory disorders such as pneumonia. This infection can be life-threatening for many older people.
Malnutrition: As swallowing becomes difficult, it’s not uncommon for people to eat less or to avoid certain healthful foods. The eventual result in these cases can be malnutrition, which leads to a weakened immune system and puts people at a higher risk for other illness. Dehydration is also common. Working with a nutritionist to develop an easy-to-eat, well-balanced diet plan can help in some cases.
Because these risks are so serious, it’s important to talk with your doctor right away if you believe you or a family member are developing a swallowing disorder.
Also, make sure to take additional precautions including knowing CPR/First Aid, and having a Dechoker devise.
Take a further look at the Dechoker here.