Health & Wellness, Kids

Gag Reflex in Toddlers and Children – Causes And Prevention


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We all are born with the gag reflex. It’s our body’s first automatic response to protect from choking. If your toddler gags while eating food then it may be because of his sensitive gag reflex. This can be very stressful for parents and tormenting for children. Gag reflex may make your child disinterested in food leading to difficult food habits in the future.

What Causes Gag Reflex?

Children with sensitive gag reflex tend to gag on food more easily than other children. Sometimes gagging may also lead to vomiting.

Gag Reflex in Toddlers and Children - Causes And Prevention #prettymummasays #motherhood #toddler #childhood #mealtime #parenting

  • Toddler and young children usually gag on food when they are in hurry to finish their food so that they can return to what they were doing before eating food. Instead of chewing they try to swallow food as it is or with little chewing effort, leading to the gag reflex.
  • Distractions like watching TV, reading or talking can also lead to gag reflux.
  • Big bites of food or mouth stuffed with food with a little scope of chewing food may make children swallow food without breaking it down resulting in the gag reflex.
  • Slow eaters tend to keep bites in their mouth for a long time, hence making then gag.
  • Children born with GERD are prone to having a gag reflex in young age.
  • Children who have delayed development of motor skills often have a delay in chewing skills.
  • Children also gag if they don’t like the taste or texture of food.

Difference Between Gag Reflex and Problem With Swallowing

Usually, it’s very common for parents to assume that gag reflex while eating is associated with the problem in swallowing food. However, there is a vast difference between a gag reflex and swallowing problem:

  • Children who have a very sensitive gag reflex will gag when food is still in their mouth, even before they try to swallow the food. This occurs when the food is near the front, middle or back of the mouth.
  • Children with a swallowing problem may gag or choke after the food has been swallowed.
Read How To Create A Happy And Positive Mealtime For Your Children

What Can You Do To Prevent Gag Reflex

Gag Reflex in Toddlers and Children - Causes And Prevention #prettymummasays #toddler #children #childhood #kidshealth #eatingproblem #mealtime #parenting

  • Serve your toddler’s food into bite-size pieces.
  • Avoid giving foods that are hard to chew and easy to choke on, such as whole grapes, matthi, apple, pear, raisins, popcorn, olive and nuts.
  • Don’t try to get your child to eat more than he’s inclined to.
  • Encourage your toddler to not to run around with food in his mouth. Make him sit in a place and let him have his food. Consider investing in a high chair or fix a place for eating meals.
  • Teach your child to eat one piece of food at a time. Remind him to chew the bite thoroughly and swallow before taking the next one.
  • Stay with your child while he is eating. If Your child tends to gag when he gulps liquids like curd, soup, curry or dal with food, offer him a drink after he’s swallowed the bite.

As your toddler grows, he will figure out eating, chewing and swallowing food without gagging. However, if his gagging or choking on food doesn’t fade away, discuss with a doctor to check for any physical problems.

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21 thoughts on “Gag Reflex in Toddlers and Children – Causes And Prevention

  1. Informative article . That’s why its always advisable to avoid food likes popcorn, whole grapes, bigger pieces of apple till the little one is 2 years old. Those tips are really helpful.

  2. Helpful. My kid used to try swallowing the food, so that he could get back to what he was doing. Now I ensure that his game is over and packed before serving food.

  3. Again a very informative and helpful post for new parents, Surbhi! Parents whose babies suffer from gag reflex have to go through many stressful and difficult situations. Thanks for sharing these tips, will be really helpful for parents to prevent the gag reflex and understand it better.

  4. This is very helpful. One of my twins has the issue of gag reflux. Although a few of these tips I knew & was implementing, but this article is elaborate & gives me more tips & insights. Thanks for sharing.

  5. My son used to gag a lot in the first two years. It was mostly because he would eat too much and swallow directly. This is quiute informative.

  6. Very informative. I especially liked the causes and the preventive measures you have added. Hassled moms of slow eaters often stuff the food into the child’s mouth causing gag reflex. This is a good reminder to them not to do this

  7. i used to be freaked out about gag reflex when babyT was starting solids and would watch him like a hawk. but thankfully it didn’t happen in his case. Ive not seen enough information on this out there.. glad to see your post.

  8. It’s very difficult to understand if they have Gag reflux or have an issue in chewing food and I am glad you covered that in this post. Sometimes I know from personal experience, elders in the family traumatize the kids by getting angry at them for gagging when they can not actually help it

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