Choking is the inability to breathe because of blockage in the airway.
Air cannot reach the lungs when a person is choking.
Death can occur if airways cannot be cleared.
If the person chokes frequently while asleep, the person may have sleep apnea.
Choking when sleeping:
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that is caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids blocking the upper airway passages during the night, making it difficult to breathe.
When throat muscles relax during night in your child, these oversized glands can temporarily prevent air from getting into the lungs.
Sleep apnea increases at ate age of three to six. Choking is common in obese people who sleep on their backs. Smoking, heavy alcohol and lung diseases can narrow the airway and throat and increase the risk of choking during sleep. Due to the frequent awakenings at night, daytime drowsiness becomes a problem for the person.
Choking can also be symptom of asthma, allergies, or cold. It can also occur due to infection which causes throat tissue to swell. Allergic reactions can also cause the throat to swell.
Cause of choking:
Choking in infants and small children is caused by small foreign object blocking one of the airways. If children play with objects in their mouth, there is an increased risk that the object will get into trachea or airways accidentally.
Choking is also caused by crushing of the trachea. It is also caused by obstruction of airways which can lead to obstructive sleep apnea. Some infections can also cause swelling of the airways or produce excessive secretions.
Symptoms can include:
- Sudden inability to talk or cry out
- The person’s face turns blue from lack of oxygen
- The person has events of gasping, pauses in breathing and sudden awakenings during sleep
- Person places hand on his or her throat and is unable to speak or breathe
If choking is due to infection, the person or child will have fever and signs of illness before labored breathing begin. If it is due to allergic reaction to medications, the person’s earlobes and face will swell.
Choking due to sleep apnea is diagnosed on reports of symptoms by the sleep partner. There are alarm devices to detect sleep apnea.
Many people are treated successfully for choking with no permanent effects. If treatment is unsuccessful, the person dies from lack of oxygen.
When your child has sleep apnea and chokes while asleep, tell your child’s doctor about this problem. Your child has to be treated by a sleep specialist and can be referred to nose, ear and throat specialist.
The specialist checks whether your child has tonsils or adenoids. If present, they are removed by operation to reduce sleep apnea and choking. In severe cases, tracheotomy is performed.