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Swallowing trouble?

tuffenuff's picture
tuffenuff
Posts: 277
Joined: May 2012

Have a pretty good sore throat for three days now. It even hurts to swallow water. But here's my quandary... I was swallowing weird because it was hurting so bad, like I anticipated the pain and didn't swallow normally, then I choked a bit once and became afraid of aspirating. Now I'm not drinking at all but I find myself wondering was I really swallowing weird or am I losing my swallow? It seems like, as disgusting as it is, I can swallow my thick saliva or mucus just fine. (u fortunately, I can't tell the mucus is there until I'm in mid-swallow.)

This is probably a redundant post but it freaks me out thinking I may not be able to swallow after this is all over. But I'm certain I could build the muscles back up. Right?? Is there anyone out there who couldn't swallow but then rehabbed back to normal?

CivilMatt's picture
CivilMatt
Posts: 3083
Joined: May 2012

Hi Cindy,

I went through a period where my throat hurt so bad that I thought I swallowed weird. There were also gag and choke episodes where I thought I might aspirate some spit or water, but I never did. I was to busy coughing to let anything go down the wrong pipe. From reading threads on here (listening too actually, my wife read them) I was very afraid of forgetting how to swallow, so I made extra effort to swallow all the time (even when it hurt). Of course for the pain I used Magic Mouth Wash to the max. The best advice I can give is to be methodical about swallowing, really concentrate on the act of swallowing. Hopefully, you just hit a rough patch and it will pass n a few days.

Best to you,

Matt

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8103
Joined: Sep 2009

Like Matt, use the numbing solutions if needed.

You don't want to not swallow, there's always a possibility that you could lose that ability, and sometimes not regain it..so do what you have to to keep that in check.

Also, a biggie....hydration, hydration, hydration....can't stress that enough.

You said you aren't drinking at all....

That will catch up to you fast, you can't become de-hydrated....worst feeling ever. That will put you in the hospital for a stay also.

OK, enough scolding LOL....

Best,
John

fisrpotpe's picture
fisrpotpe
Posts: 1344
Joined: Aug 2010

I so agree with John, it is a must to keep drinking and if it get worse even sipping several times every hour is a must. i know people who quit drinking and post treatments could not get the swallowing back. now they are stuck using feeding tube the rest of their life.

swallowing is automatic and once you loose that function it is very very hard to get back.

hydration is the number one priority i believe while going thru treatments both radiation and chemo.

john

hwt's picture
hwt
Posts: 2002
Joined: Jun 2012

You've got to keep swallowing...the last thing my surgeon said to me before radiation was if I got to the point where I could not swallow water to call him immediately. If you can't do it on your own, call your doctor before it becomes a serious issue.

tuffenuff's picture
tuffenuff
Posts: 277
Joined: May 2012

I will try to sip today. Will ask for more pain meds when I go for my fluids. Fortunately, this is a new development and I don't expect the sore throat to last for long being there is no visible damage. Also, mucus seems to be less today.

tuffenuff's picture
tuffenuff
Posts: 277
Joined: May 2012

I get IV fluids every day :o)

Laralyn's picture
Laralyn
Posts: 454
Joined: Apr 2012

Mid-way through my radiation, I started having trouble swallowing thin liquids, like water. Everything else was fine (although I stopped eating because of severe nausea from the narcotics). The problem with thin liquids has lasted through now (8 weeks post treatment) although it's gradually getting better.

When my doctor looked with a scope, he said my epiglottis is inflamed from the radiation so he's not surprised that I've had some swallowing issues.

Try lowering your head when you swallow, so your chin is touching your chest. That should help prevent aspiration. You can also try sucking on ice chips--the amount of liquid is so small that it keeps you swallowing without risking aspiration.

Ask your doctor for a referral to a speech pathologist. He can do some tests and help you learn techniques that will help you swallow until your mouth and throat get back to normal.

Hope this helps! :-)

CivilMatt's picture
CivilMatt
Posts: 3083
Joined: May 2012

Hi Cindy,

I thought a little more about swallowing and it and the act of swallowing definitely does change. Swallowing is so dependent on saliva and we have very little. Everything I eat, I have to chase with a drink of water (or something). Almost on cue, I can fall into these little coughs, repeatedly, cough, cough, cough. Which can be caused by the smallest of food particles (including wet foods like melons). I think, until the saliva comes back, most H&N patients (like us) will have to learn a new method for swallowing, tweaked somewhat for each persons peculiarities.

Best,

Matt

phrannie51's picture
phrannie51
Posts: 3845
Joined: Mar 2012

You probably are swallowing a little different to protect the sore throat, but like Matt said, your "cougher" protects you...Last time I had these mouth sores, my throat was unbelievably sore...and I was choking about every 3rd sip of water(I was taking in damned little of it)...but I ended up having to spend a day getting hydrated...I felt SO crappy, and didn't know why...but it was all a hydration problem.

This time I'm pouring 12 oz things of water down my tube several times a day to avoid feeling that bad.

If you're scared to drink it, then tube it. I honestly don't think you're losing your ability to swallow.

p

tuffenuff's picture
tuffenuff
Posts: 277
Joined: May 2012

You guys are all awesome! Don't know what I would do without you. <3

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8103
Joined: Sep 2009

LOL...an yes I mean hydration....not the other.... :)

Tim6003's picture
Tim6003
Posts: 1497
Joined: Nov 2011

I actually swallowed milk better than water at my worst point. In fact water seemed to dry my mouth out where milk did not (I know that sounds crazy).

The bottom line is you HAVE to swallow ...if you start to get anxious about swallowing then it could lead to a mental block (which of course if perfectly understandable) ..but my point is this, it is not easy to swallow, it's hard and it does hurt ..so don't beat yourself up ..but realize you MUST keep pushing through.

I actually drank 1 Ensure mixed with one glass of milk (Ensure was rich and thick) and it kept me hydrated ..I drank skim milk with the Ensure....

Your right ...saliva / mucous does go down easier bc it's slipper and slick :) and does not burn...

Best,

Tim

Kent Cass's picture
Kent Cass
Posts: 1747
Joined: Nov 2009

Worst of times for me was sipping water, and melted ice chips- but they did what IS NECESSARY- must keep the swallowing function intact, even if it's a small amount of liquid. Would advise you to keep trying- whatever works for you.

kcass

hwt's picture
hwt
Posts: 2002
Joined: Jun 2012

Like Tim, milk has always worked well for me. I don't have any issues with water but it can not be cold, just room temp, however, the milk can be cold. No rhyme or reason to allot of this stuff. Suggest trying room temp water or the milk...just don't quit swallowing. You've been thru too much and come too far to take the risk with not swallowing.

jim and i's picture
jim and i
Posts: 1676
Joined: May 2011

Jim went through swallow eval and therapy during treatment and following. The specialist told us he had to swallow, swallow, swallow because your swallow muscles are not able to rebuild the ability. Jim had a real problem swallowing because every thing tasted like poo so he now has trouble swallowing certain foods. Yesterday he choled on a mushroom at a restaurant. He has had trouble with them before. So be sure to swallow what you can as often as you can to keep them going.

Debbie

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