How do you know if you have swallowing problems?
You should be checked to see if you can swallow safely within the first few hours of being in hospital. So if you do have problems, your stroke team should pick up on them very quickly.
- coughing when you’re eating or drinking
- food or drink going down the wrong way
- feeling that food is stuck in your throat
- still having food or drink left in your mouth after you’ve swallowed
- not being able to chew food properly
- a croaky or ‘wet’ sounding voice
- taking a long time to swallow or finish a meal
- having to swallow a lot to clear your throat.
If you can’t swallow safely then food and drink may be getting into your airway and lungs. This is called aspiration. It can lead to infections and pneumonia. So it’s extremely important that swallowing problems are spotted early.
Are there treatments that can help?
If you have swallowing problems, you’ll be referred to a speech and language therapist.
- thickening your drinks with special powders to make them easier to swallow
- eating soft food, like mashed potato, or pureed food, which is very smooth, like custard
- changing the temperature of foods and drinks, as hot things are more difficult to swallow
- change how and when you eat, such as eating small amounts throughout the day, rather than three big meals.
Your speech and language therapist will explain exactly what foods are safe for you to eat and suggest any other changes that they think you should make. If you’re not getting enough food or water, your stroke team may talk to you about tube feeding. This means putting liquid food directly into your digestive system through a tube.
Find out more
- Dealing with swallowing problems - our leaflet including practical tips and information about tube feeding.
- Complete guide to swallowing problems after stroke - download for more detailed information.