Hard to swallow?

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We all take swallowing for granted — until something happens that makes it difficult.

Usually the problem isn’t serious. Maybe you’re dehydrated, or you’ve eaten too quickly. Sometimes gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, affects the esophagus. Certain medicines, allergies and illnesses also can interfere with swallowing.

In rare cases, swallowing problems are caused by a serious illness such as a stroke or Parkinson disease.

If the problem doesn’t clear up quickly, or if food sticks in your throat — or if swallowing causes choking or difficulty breathing — you should see your healthcare provider.

You might first try eating more slowly, taking smaller bites and chewing thoroughly. If GERD is causing the problem, antacids can help. Propping up your head at night and avoiding food three hours before bedtime also can be helpful.

More information is available in University Health System’s Health Library.