Advice for Some Patients with Difficulty Swallowing

Whilst convalescing from asthma and a chest infection I was taking fresh garlic, in addition to steroids and oxytetracycline, to help clear my chest. After my evening meal I foolishly swallowed a whole clove without cutting it into smaller pieces and it momentarily stuck in my throat. Whatever the medical term (see Mayo Clinic - Swallowing Problems) my throat had bruised and I was unable to swallow. By midnight I was still unable to swallow and in desperation I gargled some aspirin, but this was immediately painful and I began coughing pink phlegm, so I eventually phoned 999 and explained the problem. A couple of hours later I was seen at A&E and the doctor suggested I take two 2 mg valium tablets, but was unable to swallow them! I was given a throat X-Ray and assured that there was no blockage. I made my own way home in the early morning and was later able to drive to the chemist and buy powdered drink (Complan Shake). Gargling aspirin was no help and by early evening I was getting weaker and things were becoming very serious as I had been unable to eat, drink or take tablets for 18 hours. In desperation I tied three ice cubes into a plastic bag and held it against the base of my throat and within two minutes I was able to swallow! I have never felt such a sense of relief in my entire life! By this time there was infection in the throat and I began a course of amoxycillin (which I had in the house) but the ice pack alone was sufficient to reduce the bruising to allow me to drink water, swallow small tablets and take Complan Shake with evaporated milk and water through a straw. I added soup the following day and after a week of amoxycillin the irritation had disappeared.

Aspirin should not be used if there is any bleeding as it lengthens clotting time. Whilst recovering it's safest to stay on liquid foods for a while and ensure that any tablets are taken with water in the mouth first so they slide down easier. Iced drinks are helpful and keep an ice pack in the freezer on standby. Talking may be helpful because it exercises the throat muscles, so long as it is not painful. It may take some days for things to improve as there may be viral infection as well as bacterial - best to take things easy and eat live yogurt to help maintain healthy gut flora. If there is bacterial infection remaining after a week's course of amoxycillin (indicated by yellow or green discharge) then augmention (amoxycillin + clavulanic acid) should be effective. Augmentin should not be used casually however as it has a wide spectrum of action and removes gut flora, rendering it vulnerable to Clostridium difficile. Should any be around, the contest would be at unfavourable odds!

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