People who have respiratory conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) face a number of difficulties. One common but not often discussed difficulty is with swallowing or ‘dysphagia’.
Swallowing is a fast and complex process which involves the careful coordination of breathing and the temporary closing off of the airways. If your body requires extra effort to breathe and cannot handle that pause in breathing, this coordination of breathing and swallowing can become impaired. This can put you at risk of inhaling food or drink, leading it to ‘go down the wrong way’ (aspiration). Aspiration of food and drink can become increasingly common in COPD as the disease progresses and may lead to an increased risk of choking, or developing chest infections and pneumonia.
You may have difficulties with your swallowing if you notice:
Speech Pathologists are involved in the assessment and management of swallowing disorders. They can help you determine what food and drink textures are the safest for you, and recommend strategies to help if you are experiencing any difficulties.
Please also see a Speech Pathologist if you have any concerns about your swallowing.