By Speech Pathology students Anna Ferguson and Leonie Fishburn
It’s as vital as breathing and you do it around 700 times each day, but unless something goes awry, you probably don’t give swallowing much thought.
Swallowing Awareness Day on Wednesday 16 March 2022 shines a spotlight on the swallowing issues affecting more than one million Australians, and the vital role speech pathologists play in supporting these individuals.
Known medically as dysphagia (dis-fay-juh), difficulties occur when our normal swallow process is altered, due to a neurological or structural problem, and swallowing is no longer an easy or comfortable thing to do.
Dysphagia can occur at any stage of life, from newborn babies to the elderly, and possible causes include stroke, injury, disease, and ageing.
Like the many different people affected by dysphagia, symptoms vary greatly and can include:
- Weight loss and/or dehydration
- Difficulty managing saliva
- Frequent throat clearing
- Frequent chest infection
- Extended eating drinking time
- Uncoordinated chewing/swallowing
- Multiple swallows for each mouthful
- Wet/moist sounding voice after eating and drinking
- Feeling food stuck in your throat
At CQUniversity, the next generation of speech pathologists are studying not only to diagnose and treat communication disorders, but also to help those experiencing dysphagia.
Often working in conjunction with other health professionals, such as dieticians and occupational therapists, speech pathologists utilise a range of knowledge and tools to ensure people with dysphagia can safely receive adequate nutrition and hydration.
To help spread the message about dysphagia and where to seek help, professional peak body Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) is running a social media competition with a $150 voucher up for grabs.
To put your online content skills to good use and support everyday Australians with dysphagia, visit the SPA website at speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/swallowing and get creative!
Dysphagia might be a ‘difficult diagnosis to swallow’ but with the right assessment and support, quality of life can be greatly improved.