Signs and symptoms that can be associated with dysphagia may include:

  • Pain while swallowing (odynophagia)
  • Not being able to swallow
  • Sensation of food getting stuck in your throat or chest, or behind your breastbone (sternum)
  • Drooling
  • Hoarseness
  • Bringing food back up (regurgitation)
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Food or stomach acid backing up into your throat
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Coughing or gagging when swallowing

In infants and children, signs and symptoms of swallowing difficulties may include:

  • Lack of attention during feeding or meals
  • Tensing of the body during feeding
  • Refusing to eat foods of different textures
  • Lengthy feeding or eating times (30 minutes or longer)
  • Breast-feeding problems
  • Food or liquid leaking from the mouth
  • Coughing or choking during feeding or meals
  • Spitting up or vomiting during feeding or meals
  • Trouble breathing while eating and drinking
  • Weight loss or slow weight gain or growth
  • Recurrent pneumonia

When to see a doctor

  • Obstructions. If an obstruction interferes with breathing, call for emergency help immediately. If you're unable to swallow due to an obstruction, go to the nearest emergency department.
  • Ongoing problems. Slight or occasional difficulty swallowing usually isn't cause for concern or action. But see your doctor if you regularly have difficulty swallowing or if difficulty swallowing is accompanied by weight loss, regurgitation or vomiting.
  • Children. If you suspect that your child has trouble swallowing, contact your child's doctor. Your child may be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating children with feeding and swallowing disorders.
Oct. 21, 2011

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