When a person chokes on food or liquid, the food or liquid enters the trachea (windpipe). A good cough often can clear out a piece of food. However, if muscle force is insufficient, coughing may be inadequate, and aspiration of food or fluid may then lead to pneumonia. Symptoms of pneumonia usually are fever, coughing, and shortness of breath (dyspnea). Pneumonia needs to be treated, usually with antibiotics.
A swallowing therapist can give advice on prevention of choking (see tips ‘speech and swallowing therapy’).
Furthermore, muscle weakness and impaired brain regulation of respiration may be determinants for diminished respiration, especially during sleep. When respiration during the night is insufficient, this may lead to early morning headache, fatigue, and daytime sleepiness. Sometimes ventilatory support during the night is indicated (see ‘Centre for Home Ventilation‘).