My Child Is Scared of Choking While Eating: What Can I Do?

Is your little one scared of choking on food? Here are some tips to help your child get through it in the best possible way.
My Child Is Scared of Choking While Eating: What Can I Do?

Last update: 03 October, 2020

The fear of choking is known as phagophobia, a specific type of phobia that’s characterized by an excessive and irrational fear of swallowing food. So, what can you do if your child is scared of choking?

This condition significantly affects the lives of the people who suffer from it. They tend to suffer intense anxiety whenever it’s time to eat, and even try to avoid any situation related to food.

Does your child suffer from this disorder? If so, you should read this article carefully, as we’ll explain what to do in these cases.

My child is scared of choking, what can I do?

The fear of choking often occurs in some children after they’ve had a traumatic choking experience with food or after they’ve witnessed someone else choking. Although there are many other reasons why choking can develop in childhood, these are simply the most common.

My Child Is Scared of Choking While Eating: What Can I Do?

Regardless of the cause of this problem, the important thing is to find a solution. Would you like to help your child overcome his or her fear of choking? Here are some guidelines you can use at mealtimes.

Be patient and calm

We know that your child not wanting to eat for fear of choking is very worrying and upsetting. But, for their sake, you must remain calm in this situation.

Forcing your child to eat or getting angry with them will not help, because their irrational fear of the act of swallowing will continue. So, you must be patient and make mealtimes as stress-free and pleasant as possible.

If your child is scared of choking, show understanding of the situation

It’s important that your child knows that you understand how hard it is for him or her to eat. You must show them your unconditional support and tell them that you won’t let anything bad happen to them.

In these cases, establishing open and fluid communication is essential. In this way, the child will feel comfortable enough to express their thoughts and feelings about the situation.

Monitor eating times

One of the steps to take if your child is scared of choking is to monitor mealtimes and make sure that things don’t drag on unnecessarily.

If your child becomes distressed and overly tense, then remove their plate and try to get them to continue eating at the next mealtime.

Try to eat as a family

If possible, try to eat as a family. This is important, because, in this way, your child will understand that this is a time of enjoyment and for spending quality time together. In addition to this, your child will observe how the rest of the family members are eating without any problems, and without being in any sort of danger.

Ask a specialist for help

If, when you’ve implemented the recommendations described above, the situation doesn’t improve, then the best solution would be to consult a professional psychologist. They’ll help your child to overcome his or her irrational fear through specialized therapy.

My Child Is Scared of Choking While Eating: What Can I Do?

The importance of treating the fear of choking

If the fear of choking is prolonged over time, it can lead to a whole host of negative consequences for the person suffering from phagophobia, both physical and mental:

  • Malnutrition. By deciding to stop eating or eating very little, the body won’t have the necessary nutrients to function correctly.
  • Social isolation. By avoiding mealtimes with other people (family, friends, etc.) they start to distance themselves from those around them.
  • Depression. This will come as a result of experiencing great psychological discomfort day after day.

So, as you can see, this isn’t a trivial matter – far from it. For the sake of your child’s physical and mental health, you’ll need to intervene as soon as you notice this condition. You must try to put an end to it as soon as possible, in order to avoid even greater problems.

Your child will be eager to live a normal life and enjoy food like anyone else. Because of this, you must be there to help, support and accompany them in this difficult process of overcoming a phobia or irrational fear.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Nardone, G. (2012). Miedo, pánico, fobias: la terapia breve. Herder Editorial.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.