Difficulty swallowing? Here are the top 10 swallow strategies to consider this summer

With warmer weather finally here, many of us try to maximize our time outdoors by having picnics and barbecues. And when surrounded by the smell of fresh grilled meat and the sight of homemade baked goods, who can resist? Summer months tend to bring out the indulger in us. But, as we enjoy the simple things in life and spoil ourselves with the third watermelon wedge, it’s also important to be mindful and pay attention.

Did you know that one in five older adults suffer from difficulty swallowing? In medical terms, this is known as dysphagia.

If you have difficulty swallowing, here are the top 10 swallow tips to help you this summer:

  • Alternate sips of liquids and solids if you’re having trouble getting down dry foods, like a hot dog or hamburger on a bun.
  • Try a slushy or a milkshake if you’re coughing on “thin” consistency drinks. Thicker consistencies can sometimes be easier to get down.
  • If you’re a fast eater, take smaller bites and chew more often. You can try sitting back in your chair while you’re chewing to help you slow down or use a smaller utensil to help you take smaller bites.
  • Use condiments and dressings on your foods to help keep things moist and to swallow easier. For example, add ketchup, mustard and/or mayo to your hamburger to help keep it moist.
  • Watch your posture when you’re eating — laying in a hammock can cause havoc on your swallowing abilities! Sitting as close to a 90-degree angle is always best.
  • If you’re choking, don’t try to wash it down, but instead, try to cough it back up.
  • If you know you’re having issues with swallowing, try not to get distracted by various conversations. Stay focused on your meal.
  • Avoid harder-to-eat textures, like chips and popcorn. Stick to the things that don’t crumble. For instance, instead of popcorn, try a soft cookie.
  • Sit upright after your meals to make sure your food digests. If reflux is a problem, try to minimize acidic foods and caffeine at your cookout, like red sauces and chocolate.
  • After taking two or three bites of food, swallow several times with nothing in your mouth to help clear the pathways and reduce residue before taking your next bite.

Speech language pathologists help address dysphagia in a variety of conditions by providing mealtime strategies and evidence-based exercises to improve your swallow function.

To make an appointment for an Outpatient Speech Therapy Evaluation, please call 443-481-1140.


Sara Spivak, CCC-SLP, is speech language pathologist with Anne Arundel Medical Group (AAMG) Physical Therapy. You can reach her office at 443-481-1140 or you can request an appointment online.

Originally published May 4, 2018. Last updated July 6, 2020.



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