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What can you do when you swallow wrong and can't get a breath?


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This happened to me this morning and was worse than I've ever had it. For some reason I swallowed wrong and some saliva went down my windpipe. I couldn't get a breath. Everytime I would try to get a breath it was like there was a block. My DH had no idea what to do (or what happened) and was freaking out. I finally wrote "swallowed wrong" on our dry erase board on the fridge.

 

Finally, I figured out if I tried to "push" breath out when I wasn't trying to breathe in, then I was able to get a little bit of air on the breath in and eventually it normalized. But, left me really afraid. Could I have died from this? What is this called? What can we do if it happens again and I can't figure out how to resolve it?

 

I tried to do a google search to get some answers but couldn't really figure out what to google.

 

Any ideas would be much appreciated. This happens to me every so often and I would like to have some knowledge so I don't freak out every time...also so that I don't die from it some time. I'm not usually paranoid but this is something that happens to me frequently enough to cause me some concern.

 

Thanks,

Angela

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I do that too! I don't panic too much when it happens, though I HATE it cuz I can't breathe! The thing that freaks me out is that I've done it so much that my family isn't really concerned anymore, even my dh! I always think, "Well, what if THIS is the time that I can't get my breath? By the time they realize it, it'll be too late!"

 

I don't have any answers. I'd love to know too, so I'm hoping SOMEbody has an idea!

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I found this: "Common causes of laryngospasm are liquid or saliva that went the wrong way into the larnyx, acid reflux disease, smoke, strong smells, emotion, alcohol, cold or rapid bursts of air, and even spicy foods.

 

Some techniques that may help ease the spasm include:

 

*

Breathe through your nose rather than mouth.

*

Pull in a breath from lower down, inflating your belly rather than breathing shallowly.

*

When exhaling, very lightly blow out a sustained breath, like a soft whistle without puckering the lips.

*

Swallow repetitively.

 

Others can help by giving calm reassurance, gentle back rubbing (not whacking) and other support in riding out the spasm."

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I found this: "Common causes of laryngospasm are liquid or saliva that went the wrong way into the larnyx, acid reflux disease, smoke, strong smells, emotion, alcohol, cold or rapid bursts of air, and even spicy foods.

 

Some techniques that may help ease the spasm include:

 

*

Breathe through your nose rather than mouth.

*

Pull in a breath from lower down, inflating your belly rather than breathing shallowly.

*

When exhaling, very lightly blow out a sustained breath, like a soft whistle without puckering the lips.

*

Swallow repetitively.

 

Others can help by giving calm reassurance, gentle back rubbing (not whacking) and other support in riding out the spasm."

 

Thank you! I have reflux so maybe that is why it happens to me relatively often. Thanks so much for the information. Did it mention the likelihood of this being a severe event? (ie, dying?)

 

Thanks again,

Angela

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Thanks for the term "laryngospasm" that helped my search.

 

Here is one thing I found that is reassuring, before I pass out my muscles will relax and I will breathe again. Thanks also for the things you listed on how to respond to make the expisode pass more quickly. I think it is also a sign that perhaps my reflux isn't as quite under control as I thought it was. :glare:

 

"This involuntary reflex can be triggered by a number of things including fluids touching the opening of the larynx. Dr. Fisher relates that it can occur as a post-surgery complication and that cold, as in a sudden plunge in cold water, can also trigger it. He says that smokers can be susceptible because their throats are made more sensitive by the irritation of inhaled tobacco smoke. People who suffer from acid reflux, or heartburn, where stomach acids are brought back up and irritate the throat can also be predisposed to laryngospasm.

 

He goes on to report that it's not possible to die from laryngospasm, as long as there's air to breathe. As the oxygen level in the blood drops and before the person loses consciousness, the muscles that have contracted the larynx will relax, opening the airway. Where the person can die is if they are face down or under water, and that renewed breathing sucks water into the lungs, resulting in drowning."

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Thanks for all the information, ya'll!

 

I don't have acid reflux or heartburn, and I don't smoke (never have), so I must just have a sensitive larynx? It's good to know there's a name and that the muscles relax and allow you to breathe before you die!

 

I think I've tried breathing through my nose and I can't! I don't EVER want it to happen again, but if it does, I'll try to breathe through my nose.

 

Thanks again!

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  • 2 years later...

I was on my way home from work and swallow wrong and couln't get my breath. I was on my cell phone so the party I was talking to could only hear me struggling to get air. I was luckly stopped at a stop sign, threw my car in park because I thought I was going to pass out. I was digging at my throat trying to get air and kept telling myself to relax. FINALLY I squeezed some air in and just tryed to relax and eventually I could take air in. I was very scared, and of course the car behind me just went around, didn't bother to stop and see if I was ok or not. I finally got back on my phone but only one word sentence would come out. Eventually I could speak. This has happeded before but not this bad or long. Next time I'll try breathing out of my nose. I had my car door open and was ready to throw myself against the side of my car. Very tramatic! Thanks for the ideas but I hope I don't have to go through this again.

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  • 3 years later...
Guest mugiansk

Although it is not a regular occurrence, I have had this happen to me more times than I can now count. It is usually triggered by drinking water and one time by food going down the wrong way. It happened one time while driving and it was terrifying because I could not easily pull over. So I had to focus on driving and trying to get air in.

 

I found this video about "straw breathing" very interesting and will try to practice it enough so that I remember it next time it happens. I thought others might find it helpful as well.

 

http://vimeo.com/78772085

 

If the link no loner works, search for Laryngospasm and Bastian Medical Media.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest flaxin1

I've had this happen quite a lot over the years. Not just sleeping either. Saliva goes down the wrong something and I'm gasping for air. What I find helps is any kind of liquid seems to open the airway.  SO SO SO scary though.

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This happens to me sometimes. I was a competitive swimmer, and was used to getting waves of water splashed in my mouth. I guess my instinct is to relax, swallow the liquid, and relax some more and just try to slow down the breathing. I've never panicked.

 

Sometimes the post-nasal drip can get flowing really good, too. That's more gooey and slow moving than saliva, but equally weird sensation for breathing and/or coughing.

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  • 2 years later...

I do that too! I don't panic too much when it happens, though I HATE it cuz I can't breathe! The thing that freaks me out is that I've done it so much that my family isn't really concerned anymore, even my dh! I always think, "Well, what if THIS is the time that I can't get my breath? By the time they realize it, it'll be too late!"

 

I don't have any answers. I'd love to know too, so I'm hoping SOMEbody has an idea!

 

Hi Brindee

Did these spasms ever subside?  I recently had a Bronchitis infection which lingered and I woke up one night choking and unable to breathe in this way, this happenned on a few different nights and in the day.   Its been nearly a week and seen 4 different doctors who all say it is either GERD or hay fever too a Bronchitis inflammation. I just want to know if I now have this forever or will it eventually subside. Steve.

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I get this now. Usually when eating. And I chew thoroughly. I drink water and it helps.

 

Hi Korrale

How have you breathing issues been since 2014?  I started with this last week and have been having them since after a Bronchitis infection left me with lots of mucus. I am hoping I do not have this forever.

Regards

Steve

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Thanks for the term "laryngospasm" that helped my search.

 

Here is one thing I found that is reassuring, before I pass out my muscles will relax and I will breathe again. Thanks also for the things you listed on how to respond to make the expisode pass more quickly. I think it is also a sign that perhaps my reflux isn't as quite under control as I thought it was. :glare:

 

I was just going to say that I would definitely check whether reflux is an issue.

 

Thanks for all the information, ya'll!

 

I don't have acid reflux or heartburn, and I don't smoke (never have), so I must just have a sensitive larynx? It's good to know there's a name and that the muscles relax and allow you to breathe before you die!

 

I think I've tried breathing through my nose and I can't! I don't EVER want it to happen again, but if it does, I'll try to breathe through my nose.

 

Thanks again!

 

You may want to double-check. Silent reflux (LPR instead of GERD) typically happens at night and may not have strong symptoms (you might not even realize you have it).

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  • 8 months later...

I get this from eating too much peanut butter or eating it too fast and have lost consciousness or else lost time: I remember being in the kitchen after eating a midnight snack not being able to breathe wearing a really ratty bathrobe and thinking about what a stupid, embarrassing way to die and how it was going to be a post-pubescent male child who found the body when he woke up and then I was in my bedroom breathing with no idea however how I got there.

 

I hope that's reassuring to someone.

 

 

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  • 1 year later...

This happens to me a lot and has gotten much less scary. I've started wondering if it's an indicator of a bigger issue and if I need to seek treatment. It's hard to find information without proper key words, which lead me to this forum. Not panicking and taking air in super slowly is the only way I can get any air in... then cough or breathe out in hard bursts. Repeating this opens the airway. Thanks to all of you for sharing in this forum. It has helped. 

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  • 3 months later...

Resurrecting this to say thank you so much for existing. This happened to me about an hour ago at work, and I just traumatized all my co-workers. Allergy season and post nasal drip, some salty sunflower seeds, and swallowing salty spit just a little "off" created the perfect storm of spit and snot to block my airway and sent me into the office hallways sounding like a literal zombie! Terrifying! Again thanks for talking me down and giving me something to share with the Office. <3

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  • 9 months later...

I didn't realize so many others had the same problem. I had it for years and it became recurring. Scared the hell out of me.  I was Rx'd valium for "anxiety" - nothing to do with the "swallowing"  wrong problem. I was on valium for 4- 5 years. Don't remember EVER swallowing wrong while on the valium. I suspect it's because valium relaxes the "smooth muscle tissue in the larynx?  Took a bite of a Nathan's Jalapeno hotdog the other day and I didn't even swallow it. Immediate laryngeal spasm - total blockage. I spit it out, got up, and SLOWLY drew a breath. It want away. Scariest feeling in the world. Thinking about seeing a shrink again to get back on low dose 2.5mg daily valium. 

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I had this happen twice. First time at the movies. Scariest feeling ever. No one knows what to do. I laid my head on my husband's chest and thought well... this is it. I'm good to die.  After nearly a minute I calmed myself enough to cough several times and it worked! Definitely helped me know what to do when it happened while driving down the road. 

I panic so much that it never occurred to me to breathe from my nose. I figured if I can't breathe through my mouth then I can't get air at all?? It's like the plug for a sink drain.. nothing is getting through. Each time it was saliva going down wrong. So glad to know it won't kill you! 

Remember.. straw breathing, relaxing and coughing.  They definitely help!

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