Most kids have no problems sucking, swallowing, and breathing while they eat and drink. Babies feed, toddlers happily tuck into snacks, and older kids eat with no drama whatsoever, apart from expressing how much they dislike green vegetables. However, some kids have problems swallowing from a young age, or develop issues later in childhood. Read on for a list of signs to look out for.
Failure to Thrive
If a baby or child is not gaining weight at an acceptable rate, further investigations should be carried out to see what the underlying cause is. Babies and toddlers with dysphagia struggle to swallow food and liquids, so they don’t eat or drink enough. Older kids may have anxiety about eating and drinking if it feels difficult, which makes matters worse.
Kids with dysphagia will often become dehydrated and malnourished if the problem isn’t spotted or treated soon enough.
It Takes a Long Time to Feed a Baby or Child
It isn’t always easy to feed babies or toddlers, especially if they are fussy eaters, but if every mealtime is a battleground and it takes forever to get your child to eat one mouthful of food or drink a bottle of formula, there could be a reason why.
Trouble Breathing When Feeding
Babies with dysphagia can have problems breathing when they are sucking. This is common in babies born with a cleft palate. Be alert for signs of breathing difficulties while the baby sucks. Listen to their breathing and see if it becomes more labored while they feed from the breast or bottle.
Babies may turn blue if they can’t breathe properly while they feed. In addition, babies and children with dysphagia are more prone to illnesses such as pneumonia and may have congestion problems as a result of aspirating liquids and food.
Choking and Gagging While Eating and Drinking
The sensation of a blockage in the throat, real or otherwise, can lead to choking and gagging while eating and drinking. Pay attention if your child often chokes or gags while eating or drinking. If it’s a regular issue, have them checked out.
Any one of these signs is a cause for concern and it is important to have your child checked out by a pediatrician as soon as possible, particularly in the case of infants. The cause may be obvious, such as a birth defect like a cleft palate but, in many cases, further investigations will be needed.
There are lots of treatment options for a child with dysphagia, including making changes to food textures and developing the child’s ability to co-ordinate their tongue, lips, cheeks, and jaw while eating and drinking. Many parents find it helpful to learn more about this condition. Read blogs like Simply Holahan and discover how food and beverage thickeners can help patients with dysphagia. It can also be helpful to join forums and connect with other parents in a similar situation.
Finally, always try and keep mealtimes positive by encouraging your child when they make an effort to eat and drink.
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