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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Throat closes when eating crusty/dry breads

01/16/2007

Question:

When eating a hard roll that is dried out, or certain garlic breads with a lot of crumbs, a crumb will close up my throat, and I cannot catch my breath. Sometimes this will last for 20-30 seconds which is quite scary. I`m sure that I panic to some degree, and that is not helping.

I cannot inhale any air, and although I try to breathe through my nose, that doesn`t always work.

Answer:

My first thought is to tell you that this is probably not a life threatening situation.  My second thought is to say that if you have trouble eating bread, you need to consider giving it up or try moistening it first.  Most likely you are experiencing a spasm of your vocal cords when a crumb goes down the wrong way, or into your windpipe.

I'm sure that there is some anxiety that accompanies that feeling of choking.  If you try to calm down (I realize that calming down when you can't breathe is difficult), you will realize that you can breathe and that you will  be able to clear your airway.

You did not actually ask a question, so I am not sure how much more to say.  I wish you luck with this problem.

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Response by:

Keith M Wilson, MD Keith M Wilson, MD
Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Head and Neck Division
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati