As COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that affects the lungs, dysphagia is also common among the patients who were not ventilated.
Some of you may not know what dysphagia means, but if you’ve ever had a sore throat and had difficulty swallowing solids and liquids, then you know what it feels like. According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), dysphagia or difficulty while swallowing can occur due to neurological diseases, palate problems, pharyngeal and esophageal obstructions, viral and bacterial infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Dysphagia and COVID-19
Oropharyngeal dysphagia, as many studies like the one published in the European Journal of Neurology in May 2020 shows, is associated with COVID-19 infection, especially among hospitalised patients who’ve had severe symptoms, pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Because this is a respiratory infection that affects the lungs, dysphagia is also common among COVID-19 patients who weren’t ventilated.
If you had contracted COVID-19 infection and are now recovering from it, then you know just how important a healthy and nutrient-dense diet is. But, if you’re experiencing difficulty swallowing while following this diet, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has a few recommendations to ease the process.
1. Sit straight: No matter how fatigued you might feel, do not eat or drink while lying down. Sit upright with the support of pillows and cushions if needed.
2. Remain upright: Do not lie down immediately after eating or drinking. Remain upright while being seated, standing or walking for at least 30 minutes after meals.
3. Go soft: Try foods of which are soft, smooth and moist at first, and ensure that all solids are chopped into smaller pieces to ease swallowing. If still difficult, start with thin liquids and thicken the foods as your ability to swallow improves.
4. Focus: Pay attention and concentrate when you’re eating or drinking. This can help you avoid choking or coughing.
5. Take your time: Don’t rush while eating or drinking. Take small bites of food and small sips of water/fluids. Chew well before swallowing and sip on water between bites to help the swallowing process along.
6. Clear your mouth: Check that your mouth is completely clear before taking the next bite. Swallow a couple of times and sip on water slowly if needed, but don’t stuff your mouth.
7. Go small: Dysphagia can make eating a full meal tiring. So eat smaller meals throughout the day to conserve your energy while avoiding choking or coughing.
8. Take a break: If you find yourself feeling breathless, or start to cough or choke, then stop eating and take some rest. Let the complication subside, then resume eating or drinking.
As mentioned earlier, eating well after an infection is very important. Swallowing difficulties can make this quite a task, but be patient and stay hydrated. Also, ensure that you brush your teeth and gargle often to keep your mouth and throat clean.
For more information, read our Complete Guide to Post COVID-19 Care.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.