What is a swallowing disorder?

Swallowing disorders, also called dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh), can occur at different stages in the swallowing process.

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What are the symptoms of a swallowing disorder?

For a variety of reasons babies and children have problems with feeding and eating at mealtimes. Children with feeding and swallowing problems can present with a wide variety of symptoms. Not all signs and symptoms are present in every child. The following are signs and symptoms of feeding and swallowing problems in very young children:

  • problems with sucking and swallowing
  • refusing the bottle/breast
  • difficulty breastfeeding
  • arching or stiffening of the body during feeding
  • irritability or lack of alertness during feeding
  • refusing food or liquid
  • failure to accept different textures of food (e.g., only pureed foods or crunchy cereals)
  • long feeding times (e.g., more than 30 minutes)
  • difficulty chewing
  • food refusal or only accepts limited types of foods
  • coughing or gagging during meals
  • excessive drooling or food/liquid coming out of the mouth or nose
  • difficulty coordinating breathing with eating and drinking
  • increased stuffiness during meals
  • gurgly, hoarse, or breathy voice quality
  • frequent spitting up or vomiting

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What are some of the risks for a child with a swallowing disorder?

  • dehydration or poor nutrition
  • aspiration (food or liquid entering the airway) or penetration
  • pneumonia or repeated upper respiratory infections that can lead to chronic lung disease
  • embarrassment or isolation in social situations involving eating
  • weight loss, less than normal weight gain or growth

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