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Breathing difficulty while trying to swallow. What could be the reason?

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Practicing since : 1985
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i just had an incident that has actually happened to me once before. Both times I have been eating but at the time it happens no food is in my throat it is before the food is swallowed and like the juice from the food causes me to strangle and then It is as though I can't take a breath in and it actually sounds like Im gasping for air. I can breath out but I can't swallow or breath in air through my mouth. It passes after about a minute but that minute is very scary and i feel like i am going to suffocate. The first time I had just put a buffalo wing in my mouth to take a bite and before any food was in my mouth the juice hit the back of my throat and it felt like it closed off except for a tiny little airway that caused me to make a gasping noise. The same thing happened tonight when I had a chewy peppermint coated chocolate after dinner mint. The mint did not lodge, but the juice hit my throat and caused me to strangle then I couldn't breath in. I could breath out but I could not get air in except for a little pinhole type feeling and made a loud gasping sound with each attemt. It is very frightening however, It passes after a minute. Tonite two people actually came to start the heimelich (I was in a restaurant) because they thought I had food lodged. I waved them off because I knew that no food was in my throat it was just the juice. Please help me understand what this could be. I really scared the two people I was with at dinner and the people around me as well and myself. i am not aware of any gerd or acid reflux that I feel I have. It just feels as though it is triggered from the saliva with juice of the food I'm about to eat. I have no other medical problems nor have I ever been to and gastroenterologist.
Posted Mon, 16 Jul 2012 in Digestion and Bowels
Answered by Dr. Dinesh Kumar Singal 1 hour later

Thanks for contacting Healthcare magic for your problem. I can understand the frigthening nature of the symptoms you have had.

You had two episodes of breathing difficulty which lasted for about a minuite and got better on its own. Both times it was precipitated by attempts to swallow. These episodes appear to be laryngeal spasms. It is possible that you aspirated the fluid or saliva at time of swallowing and in response the larynx went into spasm. Episodic swallow induced aspiration can occur due to some neurological problem in the nerves supplying the throat muscles or sometimes a problem in the throat muscles itself.

Sometimes even with GERD you can aspirate the refluxed material without actually having other typical symptoms of GERD like heartburn.

I will advise you to consult a neurologist who should exmine you for functioning of muscles and nerves of throat. An ENT exmination to look at any local anatomical defect.

Best wishes.

Dr Dinesh Singal
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