Fun fact: people swallow, on average, 900 times a day. When we do, 26 muscles swing into action so effortlessly we barely notice.
But for more than a million Australians, it’s not that easy.
They suffer dysphagia, a condition that leads to difficulty swallowing. The condition can lead to a variety of issues including weight loss, increased anxiety, dehydration – even pneumonia if food or drink goes down the wrong way.
One in 17 people will suffer it at some time in their life.
To illustrate its debilitating impact, Blacktown Hospital speech pathology staff created a ‘lucky dip’ of exercises, food and drinks that simulated what it might feel like to have dysphagia as part of Swallowing Awareness Day in March.
Blacktown Hospital speech pathologist, Melissa Derwin said eating and drinking was “more than nutrition”.
“It has broader implications to our quality of life,” she said.
“Speech pathologists across Western Sydney provide specialist services for people who have difficulty eating, drinking or managing saliva, and that’s a privilege.
“We empower patients and staff to value safety with meal times, and also to consider comfort, dignity and independence.”
People over 16 who have any issues around swallowing should speak with their GP for a referral or contact their local hospital Speech Pathology department.