Symptoms A-Z

Choking Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your choking symptoms with Buoy, including 3 causes and common questions concerning your choking.

An image depicting a person suffering from choking symptoms

Choking Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you're having choking


  1. 3 Possible Choking Causes
  2. FAQs
  3. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  4. Statistics

3 Possible Choking Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced choking. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder is a chronic condition that involves repeated episodes of panic attacks, as well as worry about future attacks or consequences of attacks, or unhelpful changes in behavior to avoid the attacks. Panic attacks are episodes of sudden-onset fear, discomfort, and/or other symptoms that may or may not be associated with a specific trigger.

Symptoms of panic attacks include chest pain, shortness of breath, shaking, trembling, sweating, abdominal discomfort, nausea, dizziness, heat or cold sensations, numbness or tingling, or fear of dying.

Treatment options include psychotherapy and antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: anxiety, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, depressed mood

Symptoms that always occur with panic disorder: anxiety

Symptoms that never occur with panic disorder: agoraphobia

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Choking Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you're having choking

Esophageal obstruction (steakhouse syndrome)

When a large piece of food or an object gets stuck in the lower esophagus, it can produce some mild chest pain and excessive salivation (drooling).

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: vomiting, deep chest pain, behind the breast bone, trouble swallowing, choking, swallowing of something potentially harmful

Symptoms that always occur with esophageal obstruction (steakhouse syndrome): swallowing of something potentially harmful

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Foreign body aspiration

Foreign body aspiration can be a life-threatening emergency. An aspirated solid or semisolid object may lodge in the larynx or trachea. If the object is large enough to cause nearly complete obstruction of the airway, asphyxia may rapidly cause death.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: cough, fever, shortness of breath, cough with dry or watery sputum, wheezing

Symptoms that always occur with foreign body aspiration: swallowing of something potentially harmful

Urgency: Emergency medical service

FAQs About Choking

Here are some frequently asked questions about choking.

Why do I keep choking on my food?

Chronic or long term choking on food is referred to as dysphagia and should be taken seriously. There are many causes of dysphagia and to properly define the cause you should speak to a medical professional and relate which foods cause choking, when it tends to occur, and how frequently it takes place. Disorders that make cause dysphagia include a narrowing of the esophagus, esophageal cancer, inflammation of the esophagus, stroke or disorders of the muscles that conduct swallowing.

Why am I frequently choking on saliva?

Choking frequently on saliva should be evaluated by a clinician. It may be caused by an uncoordinated swallow reflex, and in most cases is not something to be alarmed about. However, it could be a sign of any number of neuromuscular, throat or esophageal problems. Most notably, multiple sclerosis. Choking on reflux of gastric acid or gastric contents is a different problem.

Can anxiety cause a choking feeling?

Yes, anxiety can cause a feeling of restricted breathing, especially in individuals with asthma or a similar disorder of the pharynx (throat). It can also cause accelerated breathing or hypoventilation, which can lead to lightheadedness and exacerbate feelings of choking or inability to inhale enough air.

What are the most common foods babies choke on?

Foods that babies choke on are usually overly large, easy to swallow whole, hard, sticky, or prone to speedy consumption. For example, peanuts and popcorn can be eaten by the fistful and may not be chewed properly before swallowing. Additionally, sticky and hard foods like caramels and other candies also represent a significant choking hazard.

Can a baby choke on spit up while sleeping?

Yes, it is possible for a baby to vomit and choke on its vomit while sleeping. However, this is uncommon. There is a myth that children that sleep on their backs may vomit and choke on that vomit while sleeping. In reality, the baby will either swallow or cough up their vomit if they vomit while they sleep rather than choke.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Choking

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Did you swallow something that could have caused your symptoms?
  • Are there specific situations that cause your anxiety, or does it seem that almost anything will make you anxious?
  • Have you vomited?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out why you're having choking

Choking Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced choking have also experienced:

  • 9% Shortness Of Breath
  • 6% Cough
  • 3% Congestion

People who have experienced choking were most often matched with:

  • 43% Foreign Body Aspiration
  • 37% Esophageal Obstruction (Steakhouse Syndrome)
  • 18% Panic Disorder

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Choking Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you're having choking