Children who have a problem swallowing are often associated with a condition called dysphagia. There are a number of factors that can cause this condition, evident when the food either is in the mouth, passes through the esophagus or even passing through to the stomach. As such, the child or the infant develops challenges in gathering food when he/she is ready to suck, swallow or even chew. The parent will easily notice that the child struggles when it comes to spoon-feeding, chewing, sucking on a bottle and when transferring the food through the throat while swallowing.
Feeding disorders are a growing challenge for children, with 25% of infants known to suffer from it. In addition, 80% of children who are experiencing childhood developmental challenges are likely to as well suffer from feeding disorders. On the other hand, only up to 45% of those who have no issues in motor development may come to experience feeding disorders.
What are some of the causes of feeding disorders?
As mentioned earlier, some of the causes will most likely come about as a secondary response to development challenges, though a few of the causes mentioned below have nothing to do with them. These include:
- Gastrointestinal conditions like gastroesophageal reflux
- Nervous system issues like cerebral palsy
- Heart diseases
- Palate and cleft lip
- Low birth weight and premature birth
- Early-age respiratory difficulties
- Face and neck muscle weaknesses
- Medicinal response from a child causing lethargy
- Issues with parent-child interactions during meal time
The feeding disorder will most likely cause a child either to have dehydration challenges, aspiration and general poor nutrition. The child will also be likely to suffer from pneumonia or respiratory conditions and isolation from society during eating time because of embarrassment.
What are some of the symptoms of feeding and swallowing challenges?
Look out for one or more of the conditions mentioned below:
- Difficulties in chewing
- Long feeding periods
- A general and prolonged refusal of food and liquids
- Failures in accepting varied textures of foods
- Lack of alertness when being fed
- Gagging and coughing at meal time
- Frequent vomiting and spitting
- Difficulties in coordinating breathing and chewing
- Increased congestion when feeding
- Abnormal weight loss
- Respiratory infections and pneumonia
Good diagnostics and treatment practices
The doctor you visit will most likely refer you to a speech-language pathologist. He specializes in taking care of swallowing and eating disorders. The specialist will need to take the child through a clinical feeding examination including digging deeper into the history of the problem, and examining the strength of the muscles in use while feeding and swallowing. Other tests for further observation include the modified barium swallow. Here the doctor swallows food containing barium, and the process observed via X-ray.
Treatment for swallowing disorders will most likely circle around medicinal intervention for such issues as gastroesophageal reflux, nutritional changes, positioning and posture changes as well as behavioral control techniques. Individual needs may as well call for direct feeding therapies. The pathologist will also involve the parent/guardian by recommending some tips necessary to help your child outside the doctor’s appointments.