17 answers

Can't Breathe!

Okay I'm trying to find out what this is. The other night my husband was eating a burger and he started acting like he was choking. He could not get air in or out. It finally past and he told me he wasn't choking on his food. He has had this happen to him during the night, too. He will wake up and start gasping for air. He usually goes outside into the cold air, relaxes and then he can breath again. His mother and her dad has the same thing happen to them. My mother-in-law explains it as mucus in your throat that you can't move. Eating bread will sometimes get stuck in the mucus and makes matters worse. All they can do is relax their throat and then they can breath. it is scarey for them, it is really scarey for me. Has anyone ever heard of something like this? What is it?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Just a note on the previous comment--a hiatal hernia is totally and completely treatable by going to a chiropractor. It is a matter of adjust the back, ribs, and diaphragm. My husband used to have it and it is a problem no more.

1 mom found this helpful

These are symptoms of asthma - inflamed, mucousy, spasming airway. It may be nothing, but I would have him talk to a Dr.

More Answers

Just a note on the previous comment--a hiatal hernia is totally and completely treatable by going to a chiropractor. It is a matter of adjust the back, ribs, and diaphragm. My husband used to have it and it is a problem no more.

1 mom found this helpful

Has he been tested for sleep apena? My young son has it, a machine at night helps keep the air moving.

It sounded like asthma to me, too.

Well, this makes my memory go back quite a ways, and I can't recall the name of the problem my (late) mother had. But sometimes she would feel as if something were stuck in her esophagus. Her doctor prescribed her a nitroglycerin pill to take when this happened. (I always thought nitroglycerin was for heart problems, but she always said the problem wasn't her heart.) However, that was at least fifteen years ago, and I'm not a medical expert. If your husband has not seen a doctor about this, please encourage him to go (for both of your sakes). If he has, perhaps his doctor can explain it to you. It is scary indeed!

I would reduce/cut milk and anything mucus forming like red meat. There is a tea called breathe easy you can get at the store by traditional medicinals. If it is allergies, grapeseed extract may help. Plenty of spicy foods and garlic to help cut the mucus could be helpful.

A coworker's husband had this same thing. It ended up being an allergic reaction. This is definately something to see the doctor about! Good Luck.

Get him to a doctor. I knew a guy who had this. I can't remember what the heck it's called but he would choke on dry food (breads & meats). It is caused by something in the throat... I can't remember if it's a growth or what, but it requires surgery to fix. I remember he was nervous about it, but everything was fine, and it healed fine. It's nothing to ignore & he needs to see a doctor.
Sorry I cant remember the name of this problem...

Have they checked for allergies to either foods or chemicals that may be on them?


It could be an allergy. My mom had this kind of thing happen when she was around cats. I would go to a doctor and explain the symptoms in detail.

Sounds just like the condition my husband has, it is called a HIATAL HERNIA. He was diagnosed via a procedure called a "BARIUM SWALLOW VIDEO X-RAY" where they have you swallow liqud barium then video tape it traveling to the stomach.

Signs and symptoms of a hiatal hernia?
Heartburn is the most common symptom of having a hiatal hernia. It is a feeling of burning pain in your chest or below the sternum (chest bone). This usually occurs after meals and spreads to your neck, jaw, or shoulder area. You may also have one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

-Abdominal pain, especially in the area just above the navel.
-Bitter or acid taste in your mouth.
-Choking, coughing, or shortness of breath.
-Dysphagia (trouble swallowing).
-Frequent burping or hiccups.
-Vomiting (throwing up) blood or having black, tarry stools.
-Weight loss.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the back flow of stomach contents, including digestive juices, into the esophagus or food tube. This is most commonly called acid reflux or heartburn. Your shortness of breath (Also can feel/looks like ASTHMA) could be caused by esophageal spasm from heartburn. Reflux can come all the way up into the mouth and nose. When this happens the material can be aspirated, dribbling into the windpipe and lungs. This could also explain your shortness of breath. Please check with your doctor about these possibilities.

Good luck in your diagnosis and treatment.

A., please have him go to a doctor and explain the symptoms. My good friend had symptoms such as these and, I'm not trying to scare you, but it was esophageal cancer. The food just doesn't seem to go down right. I really doubt this is what is wrong with your husband but it is worth having him go to a doctor. They can send a scope down his esophagus and see if anything is blocking the pasage of food. BTW, the reason my friend didn't go to a doctor earlier was that his mother also had some of these symptoms and so they thought it was just some hereditary problem. Unfortunately, she just had a hard time swallowing but my friend actually had cancer.

I used to have that happen to me, but only when I was exercising, so the food problem never came up. It would always happen right before the second half of a basketball game when I was a teenager, and once it happened when I was doing a running test (how fast we could run a mile) for gym class. It also happened to my sister, who was on the same basketball team with me. It was just a given that the two of us would have to sit out for about 20 minutes somewhere in the middle of the game!

I was told it was exercise-induced asthma. Because it was not severe and only happened upon extreme exertion (I could usually run the mile fine, but that one time it happened, it was my favorite tennis teacher and I wanted to prove myself, so I pushed myself harder than usual) I never got any sort of treatment for it.

My throat never closed off completely, so I could still breathe, it was just like trying to snorkel with a drinking straw. The only thing that helped was to go somewhere quiet and relax for a while, and then my throat would slowly relax and I could breathe.

Because it's happening at random times, like in the night and while eating, I would absolutely make him a doctor's appointment. It's like those commercials for prescriptions for overactive bladder say. Why would you just live with this condition when there's an easy way to fix it? Of course, overactive bladder isn't scary or potentially life-threatening, so it's even more important that he see a doctor about it!

Hi A. - your poor husband. That must have been really scary. It sounds like he had either a bronchospasm like happens with a asthma or a laryngeal spasm. Moreso like the latter.

He needs to be evaluated by an ENT right away. If he had an attack with no warning that closed his airway like that, it could be life threatening.

Good luck to you!

These are symptoms of asthma - inflamed, mucousy, spasming airway. It may be nothing, but I would have him talk to a Dr.

HI A.! Experiencing this is a very scary thing! I go through this with my husband all the time and each time it scares me just as much as it did the first time! My husband has acid reflux and if he doesn't take his medicine for a few days this same thing will happen to him. Has your husband and his family ever been checked out for this condition?

My dad has a similar issue...have your husband ask the doctor about Schatzki's Ring.


Constricting of the ring can happen at completely random times...but, it can be managed by periodic trips to the doctor get the ring "stretched out".

My dad suffered from this for many years before the doctors finally figured out what the problem was.

Hope this helps.

There are so many possibilities that it can't really be narrowed down online. One poster mentioned growths in the throat - I would guess she was talking about polyps. During the night gasping could certainly be sleep apnea, but that would not cause shortness of breath during the day. There are also many other symptoms of sleep apnea - you can google them if you want more info about it. Asthma is a possibility, especially given that cold air helps. Asthma causes a swelling of the bronchial tubes, and the cold air brings the swelling down. It's just like putting an ice pack on a sprained ankle. Allergies were mentioned. I personally have a dairy allergy that causes me to make large amounts of mucus when I drink dairy. However, I have never had any kinds of choking problems like you mentioned.

Here is something else to consider about allergies... after my second baby was born, I went to the doctor for chronic shortness of breath. He told my I had asthma and prescribed an inhaler. I used it for several weeks to a month and it provided no relief. Through my own research, I discovered that I was reacting to the preservative "sodium benzoate." It is in most every processed food, and especially in all brands of soda (except the all-natural ones). I discovered that there are several parent groups in the UK that are pushing to ban this preservative because so many people react to it with asthma-like symptoms. However, its asthmatic properties are virtually unknown in the US - or at least no one is warning people about it. My doctor absolutely insisted that I had asthma even though I knew he was wrong. As soon as I cut out all soda from my diet and started being more cautious about the processed food I buy, it went away. It is something to think about if you husband is diagnosed with asthma. I personally wonder how many people who are taking long-term asthma medication are really reacting to a food/chemical that they could easily eliminate from their diet.

At any rate, this sounds like it could be something dangerous, or could lead to something dangerous. I know there are few things that are more difficult than getting a man to the doctor, but that probably is your best bet. There are so many things that this could be. I can't really see you figuring it out through internet advice.

Best of luck,
S. L

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