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Swallowing disorder in children

Swallowing problems in children are also known as dysphagia, which are further categorized on the basis of stage of swallowing. The oral phase is the part involving sucking and chewing food or drinks inside the throat, the pharyngeal phase involves starting of swallowing, squeezing food and closing of opening of wind pipe, so that food and liquid moves only inside the food pipe and prevents choking. The last part is the oesophageal phase, which involves movement of food from the oesophagus down to the stomach. The process involves more than 50 muscles and thus there can be a problem in any of the stages. The parents must recognise symptoms like refusal of food, especially crunchy or hard food, difficulty in chewing, coughing, trying to vomit, drooling over food, recurrent respiratory infections, pneumonia and stiffening of body during eating as difficulty in swallowing.
The child may be at risk or dehydration, malnutrition, pneumonia and aspiration because of this problem; hence a paediatrician must be consulted immediately. The paediatrician will conduct appropriate medical tests like endoscopic assessment and go through the child’s medical history. A speech therapist might also be assisting. The child’s feeding habits, posture, food intake and medical status will be monitored. Based on the problem, proper medical intervention or therapy will be suggested. The aim is to increase the nutrition, improve tongue movement and chewing, increase the acceptance of all kinds of foods and make muscles stronger.

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