Among the many challenges people with Down syndrome face on a daily basis, one of the most fundamental is with eating and swallowing. Difficulties can start in infancy, when babies have a hard time nursing or bottle feeding, and continue into childhood and even adulthood. Unfortunately, these problems can cause malnutrition and even put the victim at an increased choking risk.
Here, we take a look at why Down syndrome causes these problems, what caregivers can do to alleviate them, and how to prevent and treat choking.
Difficulty eating and swallowing is known as dysphagia, and more than 50% of children with Down syndrome showed signs of dysphagia and eating difficulties in a recent study. This is for a number of reasons, as Down syndrome can cause gastrointestinal defects, dental problems, airway defects, low muscle tone and any number of other conditions that can affect chewing and swallowing.
When a person is unable to swallow smoothly, there are a few major risks:
Parents and caregivers of people with Down syndrome should work with their medical teams to determine whether swallowing is a problem. Diagnostic tests can include observation and imaging studies. If your child is at risk, here are some steps you can take:
Lastly, in addition to prevention measures, caregivers of people with Down syndrome should learn about first-aid treatments for choking. The common standards of care are a combination of back slaps and abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich maneuver.
We believe that any family with a person who is at a high risk of choking should also add another tool to your first-aid kit: The Dechoker. Made in sizes for toddlers, children and adults, this innovative suction device can clear a choking victim’s airway in just seconds. It’s extremely easy to use, and it can be used on anyone regardless of other health conditions.
Families facing the challenges of Down syndrome can find peace of mind in having The Dechoker on hand. Learn more about how it works here.
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