Signs and Symptoms of Feeding and Swallowing Disorders

Children with feeding and swallowing problems have a wide variety of symptoms. Not all signs and symptoms are present in every child.

The following are signs and symptoms of feeding and swallowing problems in very young children:

  • Arching or stiffening of the body during feeding
  • Irritability or lack of alertness during feeding
  • Refusing food or liquid
  • Failure to accept different textures of food (e.g., only pureed foods or crunchy cereals)
  • Long feeding times (e.g., more than 30 minutes)
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Difficulty breast feeding
  • Coughing or gagging during meals
  • Excessive drooling or food/liquid coming out of the mouth or nose
  • Difficulty coordinating breathing with eating and drinking
  • Increased stuffiness during meals
  • Gurgly, hoarse, or breathy voice quality
  • Frequent spitting up or vomiting
  • Recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections
  • Less than normal weight gain or growth

As a result, children may be at risk for:

  • Dehydration or poor nutrition
  • Aspiration (food or liquid entering the airway) or penetration
  • Pneumonia or repeated upper respiratory infections that can lead to chronic lung disease
  • Embarrassment or isolation in social situations involving eating