Healthcare news

Raising awareness of dysphagia on Swallow Awareness Day

Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties
Suzanne McGonagle

A NEW information booklet to mark World Swallow Awareness Day has been launched in Northern Ireland.

It aims to raise awareness of swallowing difficulties and provide support to help people with dysphagia.

Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties, which can affect anyone at any stage of their life. Some people with the condition have problems swallowing certain foods or liquids, while others cannot swallow at all.

Research has shown that 16 to 23 per cent of the population have difficulties eating, drinking or swallowing, rising to 27 per cent in those over 76 years of age.

The booklet, launched by the Dysphagia NI Partnership and the Public Health Agency, provides information and guidance to people who may have a swallowing difficulty.

It was co-produced by the Mid and East Antrim Agewell Partnership and the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Jenny Kirkwood from the PHA said: "Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties can occur at any stage of life and can often occur alongside other conditions, such as premature birth, learning disability, dementia or stroke.

"Many social occasions revolve around food and drink, such as going out for a coffee with a friend, or family meals.

"People with dysphagia face the difficulty of having to think about how they’ll be able to eat or drink at these events, and sometimes they avoid them entirely

"The new booklet will provide information and guidance to people who may have a swallowing difficulty, including while they are waiting to be assessed by a speech and language therapist.

"It includes sections on recognising the symptoms of dysphagia, who to speak to about swallowing difficulties, making the most out of mealtimes to ensure good nutrition and hydration, what to do if someone is choking, as well as further advice and suggestions to make eating and drinking safer and more enjoyable.

"If you or someone you know is experiencing any difficulty swallowing, it is important that you speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible. In the meantime, the booklet is available to help you with further information and support."

For further information, please visit pha.site/swallowing-difficulties.