Red Flags for Feeding & Swallowing Disorders in Children

Most of us taking eating and swallowing for granted.  These actions come naturally and allow us to eat our mealsfeeding and swallowing disorders peacefully.  However, for some children, feeding and swallowing disorders make these natural reflexes and muscle actions difficult.  Read on to understand more about feeding and swallowing disorders and for red flags that your child may have a problem in this area.

What are feeding & swallowing disorders?

Feeding Disorders include difficulties gathering food to suck, chew, or swallow. According to ASHA:“…a child who cannot pick up food and get it to her mouth or cannot completely close her lips to keep food from falling out of her mouth may have a feeding disorder.”

Swallowing Disorders, also known as Dysphagia, include difficulty in one of the following stages of swallowing:

  • Oral phase: The child has difficulty sucking, chewing or transferring food or liquid into the throat.
  • Pharyngeal phase: The child has trouble starting the swallow, or the child has trouble squeezing food down the throat and closing off the airway.  This is important to prevent food or liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) or to prevent choking.
  • Esophageal phase: The child has trouble relaxing and tightening the openings at the top and bottom of the feeding tube in the throat (esophagus) and squeezing food through the esophagus into the stomach.

Red Flags for Feeding and Swallowing Disorders in Children:

  • Irritability during feeding
  • Refusing to accept food or liquid
  • Excessive drooling
  • Long feeding time (more than 30 minutes)
  • Failure to accept a variety of textures of food (i.e. only crunch foods)
  • Food spillage from mouth or nose
  • Coughing or gagging during meals
  • Difficulty coordinating breathing with eating and drinking
  • Gurgly, hoarse or breathy vocal quality during meals
  • Vomiting
  • Recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections
  • Less than normal weight gain/growth

Feeding and swallowing difficulties can put children at risk for the following problems:

  • Dehydration
  • Poor nutrition
  • Pneumonia
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Embarrassment
  • Isolation in social eating situations

Feeding and swallowing difficulties can be scary.   Click here for more information to determine if your child may need feeding therapy.  Visit us anytime at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.