Swallowing safely is no choke

Jul 16, 2010

That's the message of Drs. Roya Sayadi and Joel Herskowitz. They are a wife-husband team from Natick, Massachusetts, who are spreading the word that swallowing problems are everywhere - and they can be deadly.

"Many people these days know about the dangers of falling in the elderly," said Sayadi, a speech-language pathologist with the Natick Visiting Nurse Association. "Caregivers are on the alert and do many things to prevent falls. But not many people realize that swallowing problems, too, account for tens of thousands of deaths every year in the United States."

These deaths result from choking, pneumonia - from breathing in food, liquid, or saliva that's chock full of germs - and malnutrition, Dr. Sayadi explained. "Many of these deaths can be prevented," she emphasized, if only people know what to look out for and what to do when they encounter a problem.

Recognizing a knowledge gap in the patients and families she treats, Dr. Sayadi and her husband wrote a book to help close this knowledge gap. It's entitled Swallow Safely: How Swallowing Problems Threaten the Elderly and Others. A Caregiver's Guide to Recognition, Treatment, and Prevention published this week by Inside/Outside Press.

"It's not just the elderly who are at high risk," said Herskowitz, a pediatric neurologist at Boston Medical Center and an assistant professor of pediatrics and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. "Many persons with Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer disease, stroke, cancer, or congestive are also vulnerable." A 1967 Princeton graduate, he added that of any cause and drug side effects themselves can cause a life-threatening swallowing problem.

"Part of the difficulty," Dr Sayadi said, "is that it can be hard to pick up a swallowing problem - unless you know what symptoms to watch for. Frequent throat-clearing during meals can be a clue. A change in a person's voice can be, too. Even having a runny nose while eating. Sometimes it's just "taking forever to get through a meal," a common complaint in persons with Parkinson disease, Dr. Sayadi said, "or "having repeated bouts of pneumonia.

Explore further: License plate decals don't seem to curb learner driver crash rates

Related Stories

COPD-related problems hard to swallow

Mar 26, 2009

Patients with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exhibit a disordered breathing-swallowing pattern that may account for their higher risk of aspiration pneumonia, according to new research from ...

Parkinson's disease can affect more than just the body

Dec 12, 2008

Parkinson’s disease affects 6.3 million people worldwide. While the disease is recognized for its profound effects on movement, up to 40 percent of Parkinson’s disease patients also develop changes in thought, behavior ...

US swine flu victims had chronic health problems

May 07, 2009

(AP) -- Health officials have released details about the chronic health problems suffered by the two people who died from swine flu in the United States. The Mexican toddler who died in Texas suffered from ...

Recommended for you

Who takes care of whom? Surprising new evidence

9 hours ago

There has been much recent discussion in the press of the plight of the so-called "sandwich generation," that is, adults who are responsible for the care of children as well as aging parents. The need for simultaneous childcare ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.