When you eat some foods, you may have parts lodge in your throat while you’re in the process of swallowing. It occurs more often with crunchy hard foods, like hard candy. It’s natural for panic to kick in initially, but you can usually remove it easily if you know what to do.
The foods that get stuck in the throat most often include foods you eat too quickly before you swallow, or foods not chewed completely. Dry bread, pieces of steak or fish or chicken bones may become lodged in your esophagus. This is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach.
When you eat, your saliva should moisten the food to help it pass through to your stomach. Sometimes, small food particles can become trapped, which may cause irritation, pain or a lump-like feeling in your throat.
If your throat has been blocked and it affects your breathing, you can do the Heimlich maneuver to expel the food by bending over a chair frontwards and giving yourself thrusts against the diaphragm, on the chair back. Grab a person to help if this doesn’t work immediately. You can run next door if you’re alone in your home. If you’re in a public place, get someone’s attention, fast. This is a medical emergency.
The methods below, on the other hand, are basic moves that you can use for minor food obstructions, if they’re only causing you some discomfort.
Most food will dissolve as time passes, so if you have a piece in your throat that isn’t an urgent matter, allow it to dissolve with saliva, or drink water. Warm tea or hot water can aid the food in dissolving more quickly. Don’t drink fluids hot enough to burn your throat.
Warm fluids lubricate your esophagus and help the food to more easily pass. Don’t drink carbonated beverages or acidic liquids like vinegar. These might seem like they should break up the food, but they can irritate the stomach or esophagus.
If drinking fluids doesn’t work while you’re standing up, lie down on the floor and JUST sip water a few times. This may dislodge the food. Gargling with salt water may also help. You can suck on lozenges or chew some gum, to increase your saliva production and help move the food.
Eating something soft
You can also eat a soft type of food and make sure you moisten it well with saliva as you chew. It may then help the original food to move out of your throat. If it doesn’t work, you can spit out the piece you just chewed.
Swallowing one teaspoon of honey can help move food from your throat. Honey texture helps coat the lodged piece of food, to make it easier to move.
You may also try a vocal, controlled cough. This constricts your throat and expels stuck particles. If this moves the food back up into your mouth, spit it out before you breathe again.
Initiating a gag reflex
If the irritation persists even after you drink fluids, eat food or cough, or the discomfort increases, you can initiate your own gag reflex. This is done by carefully tickling the back of your mouth with your finger. Use it back where your soft palate ends. This reverses normal swallowing and can help in regurgitating the lodged food back up the esophagus and up towards your mouth. Remove it carefully from your mouth.
If these methods didn’t work, perhaps you have already dislodged the food, but it still feels like it’s in your throat. Sometimes the food can move through but scratch the throat, making it feel like it’s still there.
Preventing foods from becoming lodged in the throat
It’s MUCH easier to prevent food from getting stuck than it is to try to get it out. Take bites that are small in size and chew the food slowly. Pause to take frequent drinks before you swallow, and avoid eating foods that are overly dry, if you have an ongoing problem with swallowing.
Avoiding smoking is helpful, too. Smoking will decrease the saliva that your mouth produces, which will decrease the lubrication of food. This makes it more likely that food could become lodged in your throat or esophagus.
We do not claim to diagnose medical conditions or prescribe medical treatment. Visit your physician or an urgent care facility if you have pain or concerns.