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Children Who Gag on Solid Foods


Updated January 25, 2011

Toddler Refusing to Eat Food

Just one bite, please?

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Your toddler gags on anything but baby food. Your preschooler prefers to drink her meals, and gags on anything with chunks in it. Sometimes she throws up. Do you have a picky eater, or a child with a hidden medical problem?

Some children have difficulty learning the physical actions needed to eat solid foods. They may have a physical difference in the mouth, tongue, or throat that prevents them from swallowing normally. They may just struggle with the muscle coordination necessary to chew and swallow without choking or gagging. A physical or occupational therapist can help your child to improve oral muscle coordination and feeding skills.

Some causes of gagging on solid foods:

  • Swollen Tonsils or Adenoids – Children who have chronic swelling in their throats may find it difficult or painful to swallow.
  • Gastroesophagel Reflux Disease (GERD) – Some children with GERD may swallow food only to find it coming right back up. Others may have swollen tonsils or an inflamed throat from chronic reflux.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder – Gagging can be an indicator of a rejection of a food. Some children with SPD will gag on food with a texture they don’t like.
  • Low Muscle Tone – Children with low muscle tone (a symptom of some developmental disorders) may not have the muscle strength and coordination to move food around in their mouth and swallow properly.

More About Picky Eaters and Medical Problems


Ernsperger, Lori, Ph.D. and Tania Stegen-Hanson, OTR/L. Just Take a Bite: Easy, Effective Answers to Food Aversions and Eating Challenges. Future Horizons, Arlington, TX.

North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. Hepatitis B Vaccine. Accessed online 1/14/2011. http://www.naspghan.org/user-assets/Documents/pdf/diseaseInfo/2008%20Revisions/Hepatitis%20B%20-%20Reviewed%20August%202008.pdf

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