If food gets stuck in your throat but you aren’t choking, home remedies, including drinking a carbonated beverage, may help. But if you have severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, you may need medical attention.
Swallowing is a complex process. When you eat, your
When you take a bite of solid food, a three-step process begins:
- You prepare the food to be swallowed by chewing it. This process allows the food to mix with saliva, transforming it into a moistened puree.
- Your swallowing reflex is triggered as your tongue pushes the food to the back of your throat. During this phase, your windpipe closes tightly, and your breathing stops. This prevents food from going down the wrong pipe.
- The food enters your esophagus and travels down into your stomach.
When it feels like something didn’t go all the way down, it’s usually because it’s stuck in your esophagus. Your breathing isn’t affected when this happens because the food has already cleared your windpipe. However, you may cough or gag.
Symptoms of food stuck in your esophagus develop immediately after it happens. It’s not uncommon to have severe chest pain. You may also experience excessive drooling. But there are often ways to resolve the issue at home.
The following techniques may assist you in removing food that’s become lodged in your esophagus.
The ‘Coca-Cola’ trick
Although they don’t know exactly how it works, doctors believe that the carbon dioxide gas in soda helps disintegrate the food. It’s also thought that some of the soda gets into the stomach, which then releases gas. The pressure of the gas can dislodge the stuck food.
Try a few cans of diet soda or seltzer water at home immediately after noticing the stuck food.
An effervescent drug like Alka-Seltzer may help break down food stuck in the throat. Effervescent drugs dissolve when mixed with a liquid. Like soda, the bubbles they produce when dissolving may help disintegrate the food and create pressure that can dislodge it.
If you don’t have Alka-Seltzer, you can mix some baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with water. This may help dislodge food in the same way.
Similarly, medications that treat flatulence
Follow the standard dosing recommendation on the package.
A few big sips of water may help you wash down the food stuck in your esophagus. Usually, your saliva provides enough lubrication to allow food to slide easily down the esophagus.
If your food isn’t chewed properly, it may be too dry. Repeated sips of water may moisten the stuck food, making it go down more easily.
A moist piece of food
It may feel uncomfortable to swallow something else, but sometimes, one food can help push another down. Try dipping a piece of bread in water or milk to soften it, and take a few small bites.
Another effective option may be to take a bite of a banana, a naturally soft food.
Sometimes, the esophagus needs an extra bit of lubrication. As unpleasant as it may sound, it may help to eat a tablespoon of butter. This can sometimes help moisten the lining of the esophagus and make it easier for the stuck food to move down into your stomach.
Wait it out
Food stuck in the throat usually passes on its own, given some time. Give your body a chance to do its thing. Consider getting medical attention if it doesn’t get better within the hour.
If you cannot swallow your saliva and are experiencing distress, go to your local emergency room as soon as possible. If you’re not in distress but the food is still stuck, you can have an endoscopic procedure to remove the food within 24 hours. After that, there’s a chance of damage to the lining of your esophagus.
Some doctors recommend coming in after 6—12 hours to reduce the likelihood of damage and make the extraction easier.
During an endoscopic procedure, your doctor can identify any possible underlying causes. You should consult a doctor if you frequently get food stuck in your throat.
One of the most common problems is a narrowing of the esophagus caused by the buildup of scar tissue or esophageal stricture. A specialist can treat esophageal stricture by placing a stent or performing a dilation procedure.
Thousands of people die from choking every year. It’s particularly common among young children and adults over the age of 74.
When someone is choking, they:
- are unable to talk
- have difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
- make squeaky sounds when trying to breathe
- cough, forcefully or weakly
- become flushed, then turn pale or bluish
- lose consciousness
Choking is a life threatening emergency. If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms, call your local emergency services and perform rescue techniques such as the Heimlich maneuver or chest compressions immediately as follows:
- Try to cough.
- Bend forward, and have someone give you about 5 back blows. This can help dislodge the stuck food.
- If this doesn’t work, progress to 5 abdominal thrusts, which is known as the Heimlich maneuver.
- If this doesn’t work, call 911 immediately.
Why is something stuck in my throat but I’m not choking?
The esophagus (food pipe) sits next to the trachea, the tube you breathe through. As long as the food is stuck in the esophagus, you won’t feel like choking. Still, if you feel like food is still stuck in your esophagus after a few hours, seeing a doctor may be a good idea.
How long does it take for something stuck in your throat to go away?
If the food isn’t lodged in your airway, it should go down your esophagus with water or more food within an hour. If it doesn’t, seeing a doctor to prevent damage to your food pipe may be a good idea.
Why does it feel like I have food stuck in my throat?
Food may get stuck because the piece you swallowed was too large or dry, or your esophagus has narrowed for
If you persistently feel something stuck in your throat, consider consulting a healthcare professional.
If this happens after you eat and you’re not choking, wait a few hours. If the feeling doesn’t improve, it may be a good idea to see a doctor within 6 hours to avoid damage to your food pipe.
Getting food stuck in your throat can be frustrating and painful. If this occurs frequently, talk with your doctor about possible underlying causes. Otherwise, you may be able to avoid a trip to the emergency room by treating yourself at home with carbonated beverages or other remedies.
In the future, be particularly careful when eating meat, as it’s the most common culprit. Avoid eating too quickly, take small bites, and avoid eating while intoxicated.