Read below about choking, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your choking from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Choking

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced choking. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Panic Disorder

    Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror without true danger. One may feel as if they are losing control or have physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heart.

    Chronic with relapses

    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

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  2. 2.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).

    If large piece of food or object does not leave the esophagus within 12 hours, it must be removed manually. This should only be done by a physician.

    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
  3. 3.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.

    Resolves as soon as treatment is provided

    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

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

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our choking symptom checker to find out more.

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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”).

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