10 answers

8 Year Old Having Swallowing Difficulty

Here I am again! My 8 year old son has been having trouble swallowing since the middle of summer. It started out that he would lay flat in his bed at night and complain of not being able to breathe very well - that something was closing off his air. So, he began to sleep on 2 pillows,which worked. Then, it became an issue of chewing and chewing and chewing his food so much it is liquified before he can swallow it. Honestly, I thought he was just going through a phase and that he would get over it. But, since school has started and he has 30 minute lunches, this has posed quite a problem. He is getting little, if any, nutrition and has only gained 1/2 pound in a year! We went to Children's last week and barium testing revealed no problems. The doctors are suggesting he needs to see a feeding specialist to "re-train" him to eat. He has no problem getting sugared foods down, I should add. Seems to be meat and vegetables where the issue is. Others have suggested to see an ENT for structural examination (are his tonsils enlarged, etc.?) Has anyone gone through this with their children and what would you suggest? Thanks again so much! I appreciate your input!

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So What Happened?™

Thank you to all who responded to my request. I really appreciate that! Robert is improving slowly. We have taken the feeding specialist's advice. We've upped his calories through the institution of Carnation Instant Breakfast every morning, extra pats of butter on his food, etc. We've been timing his meals and he still doesn't have it down to 30 minutes, but he made the comment that he has "forgotten" about trying to chew his food so much and is feeling much better about swallowing. My mother-in-law wigged about the fact we were going to take him for testing and begged me to wait until his 9-year check-up in January. She felt it was just a phase and he would work it out himself. Hate to admit it, but she's probably right. At any rate, I am keeping a watchful on him, we've taken pressure off the eating situation and he is improving. He gained 3 pounds in the last month (which I am also being careful with)! At any rate, I have taken all of your comments to heart and should he not continue to improve, we will be off to the ENT! You guys are awesome!

Featured Answers

I don't have personal experience with this but The Children's Institute (www.amazingkids.org) has a very good feeding program.

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Hi J.,

I too say ENT, and stay on top of it. Try to get a solid diagnosis. It may be something with attention, but tell him you will keep trying to figure it out because you care about him so much. Try to encourage your son to keep communicating his issues to you.

RE: the baby weight.Weight Watchers did it for me. It is so awesome and you can do it so easily, online or go to a few meetings to get started. I dropped 15 pounds in 4 months. I highly recommend trying it.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.,
I would have him checked by an ENT. Also, has your doc checked his thyroid? He may have an enlarged thyroid gland causing trouble swallowing. The sugar foods going down easy, I can understand, most of them dissolve on contact with saliva, meats and veggies do not. Don't ignore it! If your gut says something is not right, don't let docs shrug it off either. Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.. Is her snoring at night or have you noticed that he always seems to have a runny/snotty nose? If you have a yes for either of those get to an ENT! Our oldest was having issues with eating, sleeping and really snotty noses our doctor ordered an xray and poof we were at the ENT the next day and in surgery a couple of weeks later to remove her adnoids and tonsils! The difference was instant and noticable even in the recovery room. We have never had those issues with either of our other two girls (go figure). Meanwhile have you been giving him pedisure? or even ensure? That will help with the nutrtion and calories for the short term. Good luck and best wishes!

I don't have personal experience with this but The Children's Institute (www.amazingkids.org) has a very good feeding program.

Both my son and I have had this problem. In my son's case, his tonsils were fine, it took an xray done of the sinuses and airway to reveal that his adenoids were practically closing his airway off. It's amazing he could breath at all. Emergency surgery fixed the problem for a couple of years until he developed sinus and allergy problems. Allergies can also cause airway swelling, as can chronic strep. some people can be strep carriers and not even know it or have strep like symptoms. There are other bacteria, such as hemophylis influenza B that can cause airway swelling and interfere with swallowing. Poorly functioning salivary glands can also be the culprit. Most sugary foods are carbs that can practically dissolve in the mouth, where meat and vegetables can not. There is also a possibility of sleep apnea, which can be caused by structural problems in the throat or airway. All of these problems can be diagnosed and treated only by an ENT, so if you haven't seen one already, you should make an appointment ASAP and have every one of these things tested for until you find a solution. The sleep study should probably be the last thing tested for, after all of the other things are ruled out, including allergies or chronic sinusitis. Meanwhile, try having your son sleep on his side and see if it helps, because some mechanical airway problems can be temporarily relieved by sleeping in that position, which opens the airway further. As for the eating issues, it's very hard to eat well if you can't breath, so the breathing should be addressed FIRST, not last. Sometimes a simple saline nasal spray will help open sinuses at bedtime to make breathing easier. Viks makes a "facial" pore steamer that is used with just water steam that will help sinuses drain and open airways to ease breathing. Don't skip the ENT even if some of these other remedies help, as airway issues can be very harmful to health in the long run, if not outright life threatening. don't let animals sleep on the bed, or in the room, in case it's an allergy issue until your son is tested. I would go to an allergist and NOT an ENT for the ruling out allergies component, so you'll want to see both an ENT and an allergist, but see the ENT first in case it's a structural issue. I should mention here that I'm an ICU/PICU trained RN with 23 years experience, as well as a mom who has dealt with this from personal experience. Good luck to you.

Maybe you could try not letting him have the sugared foods?? I would still take him to an ENT, just to be sure, but it sounds like MAYBE it's the foods he doesn't like as much are giving him the trouble, and now maybe it's just a habit since he got so used to doing it over the summer? It may have started as an attention-getter and is now a habit. I am by no means minimizing his issue, and I hope everything is OK with him! :) Good luck with getting the little man fed and gaining again VERY quickly!!

First - don't be afraid to get a second opinion. The hospital you are talking about is great but great doesn't mean something can't be missed. We took my son there for 3 years and finally got a second opinion in Danville PA and poof our 3 year problem disappeared with the new course of action. It never seemed possible to me that we needed to go elsewhere. I am thankful everyday that we did.

I assume the test at Childrens was done through pediatric GI? If not, you definitely need GI to do a review. Reflux or any number of other GI issues could be the culprit and you could possibly need an endoscopy to determine what damage exists.


My great nephew had swallowing difficulty as a toddler. I also suggest an ENT for structure, but my niece also took my g-nephew to a speech therapist to work with his throat muscles.

Good luck.

I don't think it would take going to an ENT to tell you if his tonsils are swollen- your doctor and barium swallow can see that. You should pursue the feeding therapy and/or a psychiatrist. You should avoid giving into lots of sweets because this plays into the behavior.
PS- I love Tastefully Simple!

I personally do not have experience with this issue, but if I were in your shoes, I would probably get him looked at by an ENT. Good luck!

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