Baby Choking on Saliva: Causes and Solutions

It’s worrying to see your baby choke on saliva. This is common when babies are teething and usually passes without treatment. But if baby chokes persistently, stop relying on your own diagnosis because it could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. Consult a doctor for observation, any necessary tests and treatment.

Potential Causes of Baby Choking on Saliva

1.     Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can cause the baby's tonsils to swell. Swollen tonsils can block the airways, leading to pooling of saliva which may cause the baby to choke. Other symptoms may include:

  • Uneven breathing characterized by pauses lasting for up to 20 seconds
  • Repeated pauses in breathing lasting less than 20 seconds
  • Slowed heartbeat

2.     Infant Reflux

Infant reflux occurs due to a weak esophageal sphincter. This causes some food to leave the stomach and get back up the throat, leading to baby choking. You need not worry about this common condition as your baby will usually get over it by the first birthday.

3.     Asthma

Asthma can cause your baby to choke on saliva. The inflammatory condition affects the airways and lungs, causing swelling and tightness. In the case of an acute asthma attack, the lining of a baby’s airways are irritated and swollen. This leads to overproduction of mucus and tightening of the muscles in the airways, causing rapid breath, wheezing and even choking.

Besides asthma, colds and allergies can cause overproduction of mucus and make baby choke on saliva.

How to Deal with Baby Choking on Saliva

1.     Do Not Try to Solve the Problem By Yourself

While this condition might look like an easy problem that you could try to solve by yourself, you might make it worse or cause new problems. It is better to seek medical care.

You might think that laying your baby on his or her stomach will help drain any excess saliva from the throat, but this position will increase your baby’s risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

It is also dangerous to give your baby medications meant for adults or older children. These include decongestants and acid reflux medications.

2.     See a Doctor

Baby choking on saliva can be caused by several reasons, so you should not diagnose by yourself. Consult a pediatrician who will examine your baby and determine the cause of the problem. Once the doctor has a diagnosis, it will be easier to come up with a treatment method.

  • A case of swollen tonsils may require tonsillectomy (surgical removal of the tonsils).
  • If a cold or allergy is to blame, related treatment will help solve that problem.
  • In some cases, the pediatrician may advise that you change your baby’s sleeping position, including putting him or her to sleep on the side or raising the head of the crib. These changes may be all that is needed to resolve the problem.

Other Parents’ Experiences

"My baby is just over two months old. He’s just woken up from a deadly choking with lots of foaming saliva. He was very distressing and gasping with every breath. I had to pound his back to clear his throat and get out all the fluid. Then I wiped it from his mouth to prevent him from swallowing it back. I also cleared his nostrils using a nasal aspirator."

"This was the fourth time it happened in two weeks. The little one had his four-week checkup two days ago. I asked the pediatrician about the choking and she said it could be silent reflux. She suggested I hold baby upright when it occurs and use a syringe bulb to clear his mouth. She also said there is medicine for the choking if it persists.”

"Every time I feed my baby, I give him his formula mixed with rice cereal, and then keep him upright for 30 minutes to one hour. I don’t even lay him down for a diaper change or a bath before that time. This has been very helpful. By the time he was 2 months old, he was already free from baby choking on saliva. He’s now 4 months and there’s no choking. I would suggest you try rice cereal and see what happens. Of course, talk to a pediatrician first. This was approved by my baby’s pediatrician."

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