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Have gag reflex. Worse while taking breath through mouth. What should I do?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2001
Answered : 11916 Questions

I have found that over the years my gag reflex seems to be worse than before. I currently play ice hockey and at times if I cough with the mouth guard in, it causes me to gag to the point where I need to take it out. Sometimes putting it right back in is ok, and sometimes I have to stop wearing it. I notice it affects me more if I breathe through the mouth rather than nose.
Posted Thu, 31 Jan 2013 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 3 hours later
hi, thanks for using health care magic

The gag reflex is mainly under the control of two of the nerves that run through the brain, cranial nerve 9 and cranial nerve 10.There is also a voluntary and psychological influence to the reflex.

It is rare to have injury to these nerves that can result in an alteration of the gag reflex, this usually occurs in cases of diabetes, trauma, patients with a history of stroke and in a few other chronic diseases.
Some persons may have hypersensitivity of the gag reflex and this may be what is ocurring.

You can consider visiting your doctor for an assessment of your cranial nerves to rule out any abnormality.

If this unlikely based on your medical history then you may want to consider desensitisation which simply entails using your toothbrush to brush your tongue. Each day you can go further and further back towards your throat.

I hope this helps, feel free to ask any other questions

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Have gag reflex. Worse while taking breath through mouth. What should I do? 4 hours later
Hi, thanks for that info.

I forgot to include this as well. This past 12 months I have been subject to multiple infections of the throat and been prescribed antibiotics by my physician. My typical colds have always been in the nose (sinus blockage, etc)... in the past while, everything is related to the throat.

Not sure if thats relevant to anything or not.
Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 8 hours later

Sorry about the late reply.
Some persons may have a hypersensitive gag reflex during a throat infection but this usually resolves with it. There is a small possibility that because it was not a single infection but repeated, there was a persistent effect on the gag reflex.
Antibiotics are not known to worsen a gag reflex.

Feel free to ask any other questions
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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