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Bad cough after eating - did I inhale food?
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Bad cough after eating - did I inhale food?

Over the past few weeks I have been having problems off an on coughing.

It starteda bout 5 weeks ago.  I had a terrible cold / bronchitis with the worst cough I have had in years.

About 2 weeks later, I was eating fast food while driving.  I was eating too fast and think I may have inhaled part of a french fry.   I started coughing immediately.  The cough lessened, but was persistent for a few days.  It also felt like I had something "stuck" in my right lung.

Symptoms subsided after a few days.  Then...about a week later, the same thing happened when I was eating rice during dinner.  I think I may have inhaled a piece of rice.

Over the past month, I have had 4 or 5 episodes like this.

I am wondering what to do.  I can't believe at the age of 31 that I would could coincidentially inhale food on 5 separate occasions.  This never happened before I had the bad cold.

Still...when this does occur it is always after I eat something.  And it always feels like something is stuck in my right lung.

Suggestions?

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Your coughing may be due to a swallowing problem.  The epiglottis is a structure that normally closes off your windpipe when swallowed food or liquid goes by on the way to your stomach.  This keeps what you are swallowing out of your windpipe and lungs.  However if your epiglottis does not close when you swallow, you can aspirate.  When this happens some of what you are swallowing gets into your windpipe and lungs causing you to cough.

The symptoms of food inhalation depend on the degree to which the food is irritating.  The lungs are able to remove some foods by breaking them down and carrying them away.  Aspirated food can cause irritation and cough.  Aspiration can even lead to pneumonia or other lung infections.

You might consider seeing your primary care physician.  Since you are coughing, he might obtain a chest x-ray to check your lungs.  He might also choose to do a swallowing test under an x-ray machine to see if you are swallowing ok.  There are two kinds.  A tailored barium swallow is an x-ray test using fluoroscopy to watch for problems as barium is swallowed.  However the one that provides more information is an x-ray using a video camera and sometimes a speech therapist is in attendance as well.
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