Child Behavior Community
14.3k Members
Avatar universal

7-year-old son won't swallow solid foods

My son stopped eating solid foods a couple of weeks ago. The doctor checked out his throat and nothing appeared to be wrong. He also has not had any traumatic incidents happen that we are aware of that might trigger this reaction. It began a few weeks ago, he would spit out food occasionally at a meal...this would get worse and he would spit out several times. 2 weeks ago he came home from school without any lunch eaten, this is when I decided to take him to the doctor...strep test was negative, and he doesn't complain of throat pain. He did say it felt like phlegm was in his throat, so we tried Zyrtec in case it was allergies (which he has never been diagnosed with), but the Zyrtec didn't help either. The first few days of this, he would eat certain solid foods, like Cheerios or Goldfish...he has since stopped eating these as well :( He managed to pretty normally chew and swallow an Oreo cookie a few days ago. He is now being treated for possible reflux issues with Prilosec and Pepcid, but I have not seen any changes. If he tries solid food, he visibly chews and chews  the food until it is liquid, but then has to still spit it out, can't swallow even though it's liquid!? I know he isn't trying this, and doesn't want to deal with this...he has said, "I feel stupid," and "I hate food." It is heart breaking to see :( He is living off of yogurt pops, Pedisure, and milk...I am SO worried about him!

Please let me know if anyone has experienced this with their child...thank you!
37 Responses
973741 tn?1342342773
He didn't have any choking incidents or anything?  
480448 tn?1426948538
Oh dear, that WOULD be worrisome.  You're doing the right thing by working with the doctor.  I would ask for some further diagnostic tests, like a barium swallow, JUST to ensure there isn't a physical cause.

SM asks an important question, did he have any near choking incidents, or anything like that?  Is anything going on with him, emotionally?  Any big changes in the last few months (even good ones, like a new baby, moving, marriage, etc)?

Prayers that you get some answers and get this resolved.  So sorry your little man is going through this.
189897 tn?1441126518
    First get him off of Prilosec.  Pepcid is ok.
    Second what kind of a doctor are you seeing?  If its just his normal pediatrician, I think its time to see a ENT for starters.  Actually your normal doc needs to know that he now has stopped eating solid food.  This is serious and its time to get more help.  
973741 tn?1342342773
The reason I was wondering is that my son ----  from when he was a little guy just getting on solid food had difficulty chewing.  He's got some motor planning issues and because of this difficulty chewing, he choked on food and gagged often.  As he got older and chewing was no longer a problem, he still gagged and spit out food.  We saw a specialist about this who talked about gag memory.  That just the smell of foods or the texture of foods that were similar to what he's choked on or gagged on would create an involuntary gag.  We had to work to overcome that.  I would cut things up into tiny little pieces that no one could ever choke on and he'd put it in his mouth and gag and spit it out.  It was psychological/neurological.  

So, I was just wondering about that.  I agree that anything medical needs to be ruled out.  good luck
Avatar universal
Thanks all! My son has never had a choking incident, so that stress doesn't come in to play here. Only big change in life us that he started 2nd grade a few weeks ago (year-round schools in NC), but he seems to like school, loves his teacher, and gets along with classmates well...I just can't imagine that would cause enough stress that would make him unable to swallow...IF it is a mental thing. At this point, even if there is an underlying physical cause, he probably does have the gag memory or will have to also deal with the psychological aspect of swallowing...ugh. We are back to pediatrician next week, I'm sure after trying allergy meds and reflux meds without success, we will be sent to specialist.

The doc is aware he's not eating solids...he is living off Pediasure, yogurt pops, milk, etc...poor kid tried a grilled cheese last night, really wanted it and thought he could eat it, But no luck :( In the beginning, he did manage to normally swallow a few things...like cookies (?!), so I do question if its physical...whatever it is, its heartbreaking!

Sandman2, what is wrong with Prilosec?
189897 tn?1441126518
     You can't use it on an as needed basis.  You must take it every day for it to work.  It stops all stomach acid production.  You can become dependent on it and take months to get off of it (my own personal experience).    
     As Public Citizen says, " Summary: PPIs are helpful for some but unnecessary and risky for most."   That is why in Aug. of 2011, " In August, Public Citizen petitioned the FDA to immediately add black box warnings and other safety information concerning several severe risks to the product labels of all PPIs on the market in the U.S. (esomeprazole, dexlansoprazole [DEXILANT], omeprazole, omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate [ZEGERID], lansoprazole, pantoprazole, rabeprazole, esomeprazole and naproxen [VIMOVO];  PRILOSEC OTC, ZEGERID OTC, PREVACID 24-HR; and all other generic counterparts).
We petitioned the FDA to require the inclusion of black box warnings identifying the following risks: rebound acid hypersecretion, which results in dependence on these frequently overused drugs; fracture; infection; and magnesium deficiency."

Avatar universal
Fortunately he wouldn't take the Prilosec...even in chocolate syrup he said it was "too spicy" (I assume bitter?).

Am calling doctor asap in morning to get in to see specialist. Also contacted teacher to get him in with school psychologist... he says he's "scared to eat" now, so obviously needs some psychological help to overcome. He said that "eating use to be my favorite thing to do"... its so sad. He is a VERY active kid, too, slender build, so there's no weight to lose...his ribs are really showing now...MY HEART IS BROKEN!! Feel so very sorry for my precious child :(
189897 tn?1441126518
      Aw, if feel for both of you.   For him because the poor little guy has no clue what or why this is happening.  And for you, because there is nothing worse then watching your own child go through this.
      I take it that even something soft like scrambled eggs won't work?
      Good luck with the specialist.   Make sure you convey to the doc that you need to get in as soon as possible.
      Please do keep us posted!
189897 tn?1441126518
      This link might prove helpful - http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1001253-clinical#a0217
Avatar universal
My girl is 7 years old and choked in September 2014,  but after a couple weeks went back to eating.  January 5, 2015 she stopped eating solids again.  I am writing to ask if you have resolved his eating issue because your story is almost identical to mine.   She is scared to eat, phlegm and something caught in her throat, she says.   Went on Zyrtec, omeperzol.  Nothing seems to help....  Just had an upper GI that came back normal and her endoscopy just showed thickening in the esophagus related to allergy changes.  We are still waiting on the biopsy.  I am so sad for her and she is loosing weight.  I know we need to see a feeding specialist/therapist.  Please any help would be appreciated..  
Avatar universal
My 5 year old just started doing this. Will put food in his mouth and chew it a while but then have to spit it out. The only thing he'll swallow is yogurt, soy milk. I just have a gut feeling that this is psychological.what can I do to get him to eat?
Avatar universal
Any updates on your child's condition?  Has there been any resolution or effective treatment?

My wife and I are experiencing the exact same thing with our six year old son.  Literally the exact same symptoms and progression.  We had a barium swallow study done, which came back normal; and recently had an endoscopy that had normal results.  Still waiting on the results of the biopsy.

Has anyone had this experience, and found an effective treatment or solution?  
189897 tn?1441126518
    Is this a recent development or has this always been the case.  If its recent, hopefully, it will pass.  If its always been the case then something like sensory processing disorder could be the cause.  Is he sensitive to textures, light, food tastes, sounds, etc.
Avatar universal
I have a 8 year old girl something has happened to her 1 1/2 weeks ago will only take liquids. we did have a slight choking incident but ate after. 2 weeks ago she had nitrous oxide at the dentist and freaked out wondering if anybody else has had any relation to this. We have had the swallow test all normal now referring to GI doc!! Please share any info you have
Avatar universal
Hi can you please share what the outcome has been and how your got there?
Almost the same thing is going on with my son. Any help would be great.
Avatar universal
Thank you for sharing about your Son. Yes, my eight year old Son has been doing the same thing. He says he feels like he is going to choke and so he spits food out or simply won't eat it. He is serious and it scares me because he has lost weight but doctors see nothing wrong. He says it feels like something is in hos throat like a spider trying to crawl out when he swallows, and that makes him choke. He is particularly obsessed with a fear of spiders right now, and his Dad (doesn't live with us) showed him arachnophobia and told him some horror story about spiders crawling over us as we sleep. I'm wondering if there is something mental/emotional triggering a physical response. He is a very bright and sensitive boy who listens very well and remembers. What kind of a Dad does that to a 7 yr old!? Thanks again, Shannon
Avatar universal
I have been taking my son to an eating disorder clinic. He has high anxiety and he is OCD about germs. He says he has a germ in his throat and it won't let him swallow.
I am still concerned that there is something physically wrong though. I saw all these posts with similar symptoms so I just wanted to know if there were any outcomes.
My son stopped eating propaly early 2015 it was becoming a concern over the past couple of months when he choked when eatingthen about 2 weeks ago he stopped eating all together. His diet at the moment is what ever he wants mainly chocolate milk and smooth desserts like moose and custard.
He will try most things however he turns it to liquid in his mouth and spits it out.
Avatar universal
My Daughter is doing great now eating!!! You need to be patient but firm I started pushing pedia sure which began to give her an appetite and she began to eat at her own pace. My Dr also had her take liquid Vitamin D this also could have helped
Avatar universal
I wanted to update everyone on my son's and our experience b/c I have had several people email me and ask...this is obviously (and sadly) a pretty common problem! Please read our experience, I hope it helps you, and feel free to send me a personal message, if you want more details or advice!...

My son at first got treated for possible reflux with meds, but they didn't seem to help. Then the doctor decided to try for allergies b/c that can create a lump in the throat or uncomfortable sensation as well, it can scare kids, then it creates a fear and snowballs out of control where they can't swallow. Well, those meds didn't help either :( SO, the pediatrician ordered tests through a GI doctor...my son first had a barium swallow test, which came back normal. Then he had an endoscopy, which came back normal as well...both of these tests showed that there was nothing physically wrong, and there was no inflammation from allergies or reflux. All signs pointed to the fact that this was probably mental, like an anxiety issue. We never found out how or why it started...weather it was stress from starting school (it started a week after he started 2nd grade) or something like that.

The one person that finally got him to eat solids again was a Speech Therapist that specialized in swallowing issues! He had 1 session with her and he was eating again :) So I do think maybe it was triggered by something, but then fear took over and he couldn't make himself swallow (he started with the spitting out of food, then had a few 'safe' solids he could eat before he only could eat solids). SO I would suggest that anyone with a child with the same problems to first look into finding a speech therapist in your area that has dealt with swallowing....it could eliminate the need for any of the traumatizing and expensive testing (Endoscopy)! Even if this started as reflux or allergies, they can help the child to overcome the fear and eat again. Ours was a lifesaver...my son did have a relapse after about 3 months, but we went back to her & she was able to help again. My son also saw a child psychologist for anxiety issues, but he never could determine why the issue began, and I also don't see my son as an overly stressed kid, so we didn't think that was all that helpful...but in some cases, this might be a good solution.

If I had to do it all again (and I REALLY hope we don't have to!), I would absolutely go to a Speech Therapist/Pathologist first (ours was in a pediatric GI doctor office) before any invasive tests. If the therapist can get your child to eat again, it's most likely nothing physically wrong. I guess you could also try to rule out reflux or allergies (with meds) b/c that is non-invasive as well.

Please let me know if you have any other questions...I know it's a heartbreaking thing to go through. My son lived on Pediasure shakes for over a month, they have a lot of sugar, but at least many nutrients. Good luck to all!!!
Thank you so much for the update, mvkmako24. My 3 year old daughter has had a swallow phobia for the past 3 weeks (after a choking incident) & is scheduled to see a swallow specialist/occupational therapist next week.  I pray this therapy will help her begin to chew & swallow solid food again. In the meantime, I've been trying some techniques I found online. I've been making mealtimes as fun as possible, initiating food play. Last night we gave each other gravy lipstick!  We've been talking about the color, texture, smell of our food & giving our food & utensils kisses and licks.  She still refuses to put food in her mouth, but, she was eating tiny spoons of gravy last night to my delight!  God bless all the moms (& families) going through this. Stay positive! Thank you again mvkmako24 for the update - it's so very encouraging to hear.
Avatar universal
Thanks so much for your reply/update i am so happy for you and your family things have improved. It gives me hope there is light at the end of all this. I cant wait for my family to get past this, it has been horrible for everyone.
a speech therapist has been discussed by the clinic we are going to, this may be the first point of discussion at our next session
thank you again for your openness.
Avatar universal
My son also has started to develop the same habit
Let me know in case you got the solution to this problem
Thanks in advance
Avatar universal
So happy to hear that you got this problem resolved, and it might also give some hope to those still suffering!

We are having a similarly difficult time with our 4 year old. Already, he has always been tall and thin. In the last year, he became gradually slower to eat his meals, and most recently he has been holding food in his mouth, chewing until it is liquified but saying he cant swallow! He's eventually getting about half of most meals down but is rapidly losing weight. He can not afford to lose it, as he hates all sweet and processed food to begin with. No way he would drink a shake or yoghurt as he says they are mushy and he likes crunchy food. Im trying so hard not to show how anxious I am in front of him but its driving me insane! hes eating half of what he ate at age two, and its taking him twice as long. we did have some upheavals, some family travel and he knows he is starting school. We've done our best to make these stress free, but you never know how it really affects them. This could be the underlying cause, we feel pretty sure that it is phychological rather than physical. he just says he cant swallow! We have started to limit the time he has to eat his meal, as giving longer has not helped at all. We will contact a speech therapist to see if that will be of any help. Thankyou.
Hi Everyone
My 4 year daughter is also facing similar issue past one year.  She doesn't swallow solids, pureed anything. Nit her favorite food. She chews and chews on her food until is becomes liquified. She gets tired and pockets it in her left cheek.  She is only on pediasure and milk. Plz share the pediasure formula where the child needs to drink less but calories can be met. Every one plz share what helped your child. My daughter has mild development delay.
Avatar universal
My son gained 900grams in the last week, we are over the moon.  He has been diagnosed with ARFID (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder) this is common in children with anxiety, OCD and autism/ ADHD.
The eating disorder clinic recommend not to go to the speech pathologist as when ever someone examines his throat he regresses.
At our next appointment we will see if he has gained more weight, if not the speech pathologist will be discussed again.
This has been the worst time for all of us and the past week is the first positive in a long time.
Hope everyone else is making good progress
Avatar universal
Our 8 year old daughter went through the EXACT same thing as your son. EXACT. It started in May and she stopped eating for close to 6 weeks. We eventually got her into a speech/feeding therapist and it was a miracle. She was eating within days. She was 'cured' within 2 weeks and had a wonderful summer. Then she started 3rd grade and stopped eating. We're on week 3 right now and brought her back to the speech/feeding therapist and now she has a cognitive therapist. We're hoping for a speedier recovery this time around.

I can't tell you how awful this is and it's been devastating for all of us. She doesn't understand why this is happening to her. The first time she did have a positive strep test and the doctors suspected a syndrome called PANDAS. However, this latest bout she did not test positive for strep and in order for there to receive a diagnosis of PANDAS, strep must be positive.

Anyway, we're in the middle of therapy right now and praying that she recovers quickly. The therapists believe anxiety has triggered these episodes, but she functions completely normally and happily in school and with her friends.

I'll come back and update was soon as we see significant progress. But I agree with you mvkmako24 - the first line of action from here on out is therapy first, invasive tests last.

Thank you and keep us posted.
Have an Answer?
Top Children's Health Answerers
189897 tn?1441126518
San Pedro, CA
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Fearing autism, many parents aren't vaccinating their kids. Can doctors reverse this dangerous trend?
Is a gluten-free diet right for you?
We answer your top questions about the flu vaccine.
Learn which over-the-counter medicines are safe for you and your baby
Yummy eats that will keep your child healthy and happy
Healing home remedies for common ailments