What Happens When Food Goes Down Your Windpipe?

When a person gets food caught in his windpipe, his natural reaction is to start coughing in an attempt to dislodge the food and return it to the esophagus, states the Huffington Post. This usually occurs when a person accidentally inhales food by unknowingly relaxing his mouth and throat muscles.

It is common for a person who has inhaled food to experience the sudden inability to breathe or talk, explains Huffington Post. This is because the body immediately responds by closing the voice box so that no additional food can enter the trachea. There are instances when coughing does not work and actually causes the food to become further lodged in the windpipe, causing a person to choke.

It is possible for food particles to make their way into the lungs even if a person is able to clear most of the food that entered the trachea. The presence of food in the lungs can lead to infection and cause a person to develop pneumonia, according to Huffington Post. Aspiration is more common in elderly people as their muscles continue to weaken. People who undergo throat surgery or suffer from certain types of nerve impairment may also have difficulty swallowing food properly. To avoid having food enter the windpipe, it is best to remain focused while eating and chew food thoroughly before swallowing.