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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Swallowing and laryngospasm

08/27/2009

Question:

Why does swallowing precipitate laryngeal spasm in some people,and how can this be avoided?

Answer:

The answer to you question is complex, since it depends on the details of the swallowing and spasms. True laryngospasm (when the vocal folds come together and do not come apart easily during breathing through the mouth) can happen for a variety of reasons - one being chronic exposure to acid. Acute attacks of acid reflux could also cause it. You might also see spasms after aspiration (getting food into the lungs). In order to fully understand and reply to the question, you would have to describe more about what you mean by swallowing (does it happen as you swallow, or a few seconds later or minutes or hours later; does it happen with all foods or just liquids, etc...) and laryngeal spasms (can you breathe, is there coughing associated with it, how often do you have these episodes.)

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Response by:

Siddarth M Khosla, MD Siddarth M Khosla, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati