Westside Voice and Swallowing



How is adult and pediatric swallowing different?
Adults and children have different anatomy due to the development changes that occur over time. For children, the teeth have not fully emerged, the hard palate is flatter, and the larynx and hyoid bone are in a higher position than in adults. During development of the anatomy, the pharynx elongates so there is no contact of the soft palate and epiglottis. This makes the pharynx part of the airway and food passage which makes adults more vulnerable for aspiration.

Figure 1. Pediatric anatomy pictured in item A and adult anatomy pictured in item B. Image from Matsuo, K., & Palmer, J. B. (2008).

What are the differences in causes for swallowing problems?

Signs and symptoms in pediatric swallowing disorders:
Signs and symptoms of swallowing difficulties to watch for in your child are:

  • arch their back or stiffen when feeding
  • cry or fuss when feeding
  • fall asleep when feeding
  • have problems breastfeeding
  • have trouble breathing while eating and drinking
  • refuse to eat or drink
  • eat only certain textures, such as soft food or crunchy food
  • take a long time to eat
  • pocket (which means to hold food in their mouth)
  • have problems chewing
  • cough or gag during meals
  • drool a lot or have liquid come out of their mouth or nose
  • get stuffy during meals
  • have a gurgly, hoarse, or breathy voice during or after meals
  • spit up or throw up a lot
  • are not gaining weight or growing
  • May have other symptoms

Pediatric Feeding and Swallowing. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/clinical-topics/pediatric-feeding-and-swallowing/ 
Swallowing Problems After Head and Neck Cancer. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/swallowing-problems-after-head-and-neck-cancer/
Swallowing Disorders in Adults. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/swallowing-disorders-in-adults/ 
Feeding and Swallowing Disorders in Children. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/feeding-and-swallowing-disorders-in-children/
Matsuo, K., & Palmer, J. B. (2008). Anatomy and physiology of feeding and swallowing: normal and abnormal. Physical medicine and rehabilitation clinics of North America, 19(4), 691–vii. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmr.2008.06.001
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Swallowing in Children vs. Adults