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Coughing fit

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    Coughing fit

    We had a very frightening experience today when my husband started with a tickly cough which quickly developed into him in a choking condition and unable to draw breath. He was diagnosed with MND in January this year and to date it has largely just affected his hands and upper arm strength. Luckily I was with him as he was driving at the time. Once I'd stopped the car I didn't know how to best help him. He was behaving as if he he was choking on food, but hadn't any food in his throat. He said eh felt as if he was going to die. I treated him as if he had been choking by thumping him on his back. He recovered relatively quickly, but it was very alarming. He then went on to happily eat Sunday lunch when we got to our destination! What should I/ could I have done? What should he now be doing?
    Advice appreciated, thank you

    Hi MEJ,

    Sorry to hear about it and it's very scary for both of you.

    I always think that the worst that would happen is that I will pass out and then breath automatically but that has never happened.

    I do have coughing fits for little reason, not sure why, but I think that it is a bit of liquid build up going down the wrong way. It is possible that I am concentrating on something and forgetting to swallow.

    It doesn't happen often, probably about once a month. Try to stay relaxed and calm as you can and do what you done if he is happy with that afterwards.

    Love Terry
    TB once said that "The forum is still the best source for friendship and information."

    It will only remain so if new people post and keep us updated on things that work or don't work and tips.

    Please post on old threads that are of use so that others see them and feel free to start new subjects and threads.


      Hi MeJ, I also didn't now what to do when hubby was choking at teatime. We was at the table and I sat next to him when he started gasping for breath, I patted him hard on the back but to no avail. He then fished out a chip by himself that hadn't been chewed and then carried on with his tea.

      As for choking on water, I'm clueless as what to do.


        Hi Mej

        I'm so sorry to hear about your husband's coughing fit. What a horrible and frightening experience for you both.

        It sounds as though you did exactly what you should. The most important thing is to stay calm and to try to keep your husband calm as panic would make it harder for him to breathe.

        There is medication that can be prescribed so that if someone does have a frightening coughing fit, they can be calmed quickly which can often help to resolve the coughing. It might be worth speaking to your husband's GP about this. We also have a Just In Case kit which is a box which people keep in their homes in case of a coughing fit. The kit is requested by a GP and sent directly to them so that they can prescribe medications to go in to the kit and then they pass to you as well as going through the medications. The box contains medications that you can give your husband as well as medications that a healthcare professional can give if needed. Most people never need to use the kit but it is there just in case they do which can provide reassurance. You can find out more about the JIC Kit on our website here

        Best Wishes

        MND Connect Adviser
        MND Connect
        Contact us on 0808 802 6262 or at [email protected]


          Hi Mej,

          Yes these coughing and choking fits are very scary and it seems to affect people with bulbar symptoms. When it started with me my family would panic and we soon realised that patting or rubbing my back had no affect. As has been said, remain clalm and if you can suggest your husband tries to breathe through his nose as I find that helps. The tendency is to try to gulp air through one’s mouth and that’s difficult when coughing.

          Whether it be food, liquids or even saliva, these episodes are unpredictable but after time we learn that it is manageable but nevertheless scary.

          Best wishes,
          I’m going to do this even if it kills me!


            Hi Mej. What a scary car ride you had. Just as well that you were a calm co-pilot. I have had a few coughing fits that subside fairly quickly. These tend to happen at meal times. As somebody said above about concentrating on what you are doing helps. I think that I swallowed at the wrong time or too weakly. But I had one really scary choking incident a few months ago when no food was in my mouth. It felt like there was a thin film of saliva over my windpipe blocking it. I was panicking inside but also determined to keep trying to breath lightly and calmly. Eventually it cleared. I stop my husband from hitting my back in almost all couphing situations as it doesn't help, but if food was stuck it could help as would a hymlick (sorry I don't know how to spell this) manoeuvre. Lynne
            ALS diagnosed November 2017, limb onset. For the 4 yrs previously I was losing my balance.

            I'm staying positive and taking each day as it comes.