Salvia is that clear liquid produced by the salivary glands. Saliva aids in digestion while washing bacteria and food from the back of the mouth. The body produces typically 1 to 2 liters of saliva per day which the body swallows without difficulty. However, there will probably come a time in our lives when we will choke on saliva. For most people, this is not a severe health concern. People who choke on their saliva receive a diagnosis of hypersalivation which is characterized by an overproduction of saliva. Although choking on saliva happens to everyone, repeatedly choking on saliva may signal an underlying medical problem.
The Symptoms Of Choking On Saliva
If the muscles involved in swallowing deteriorate or stop functioning correctly, then choking on saliva can occur. Gagging and coughing when you have not eaten or drank anything is a symptom of choking on saliva. You may also notice the following symptoms:
Gasping for air
Inability to breathe or talk
Waking up coughing or gagging
Causes Of Choking On Saliva
Possible reasons a person might choke on saliva include the following:
Acid Reflux. When stomach acid drifts back into the esophagus and mouth, saliva production increases to wash away the acid. Saliva pools in the back of mouth causing choking.
Sleep-related abnormal swallowing. Saliva collects in the mouth during sleep and flows into the lungs, which lead to aspiration and choking.
Lesions in the throat. Benign and cancerous lesions narrow the esophagus and make swallowing saliva difficult, causing choking.
Poor-fitting dentures. Salivary glands produce saliva when they detect objects in the mouth. Dentures may be mistaken for food, causing excessive production of saliva in the mouth leading to choking.
Neurological disorders. These disorders can damage the nerves in the back of the throat. The result is often difficulty swallowing and choking on saliva.
Heavy alcohol use. Excessive alcohol consumption slows muscle response — saliva pools in the back of the mouth instead of flowing down the throat.
Excessive talking. When you talk excessively and don’t stop to swallow, saliva can go down the windpipe into the lungs triggering choking.
Allergies. The thick mucus that accompanies allergies might not flow smoothly down the throat. The saliva collects in the back of the throat, causing one to choke.
Hypersalivation during pregnancy. Nausea and morning sickness often comes with hypersalivation, which may cause choking.
Drug-induced hypersalivation. Certain medications can cause increased saliva production. These medications include clozapine, aripiprazole, and ketamine.
How To Prevent Choking On Saliva
Prevention involves the reduction of saliva production, improving the flow of saliva down the throat, and the treatment of underlying health problems that may contribute to the problem. Some helpful tips include the following:
Slow down and swallow when speaking.
Sleep with head propped up to allow saliva to flow down throat.
Try sleeping on the side instead of back.
Consider raising the head of the bed to keep stomach acid in the stomach.
Drink alcohol in moderation.
Eat small meals.
Sip water regularly to help clear saliva from your mouth.