Gag me with a spoon, or with my own uvula
June 3, 2007 1:07 PM   Subscribe

GagReflexFilter....I don't know if I can adequately explain this medical problem, but I'll try...(It's one of those things that if it doesn't happen in the doctor's office, they don't know what you're talking about.)

Every now and again I have this problem. I don't know what triggers it, and I don't know that I can properly describe it. It usually happens out of the blue; suddenly I seem to be producing more saliva or mucous than I can process, and it triggers my gag reflex. I'll start gagging. A few moments later I start barfing, whether or not I have anything in my tummy. The constant gag/regurgitate cycle will go on for about 10 minutes. I'll try to calm it by drinking something (in case it's something tickling my uvula) and blowing my nose to get the offending stuff out of my throat (but in the midst of this event, when I blow my nose, I'm only able to snort briefly, then I make a weird noise and it feels as though my uvula is involuntarily slapping shut or something. In other words, I get a weird hornking sound and nothing comes through my nose when I blow.)

I mentioned it to my doctor, who just said maybe I have a very sensitive gag reflex and gave me a prescription for Rhinocort. Rhinocort seems to have lessened the incidences of this happening, but doesn't completely prevent it. It's hard to describe, it's almost like suddenly there's something, whether it's nasal discharge or whatever, that gets hung up in my throat and triggers my gag reflex. I then spend the next ten minutes alternately gagging and vomiting, in very quick succession, even if my stomach is empty.

I've had sinus/nose problems since childhood (was hospitalized once for a particularly serious nosebleed) and have been to many different doctors over the years who have variously said "you have an allgergy" (even though all tests came back inconclusive) to "it's chronic sinusitis" but no one has been able to explain my disgusting periodic gagging tendency.

Any ideas?
posted by Oriole Adams to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, I've got the same problem, though I've gotten better at learning to breathe through it and relax. Which is about the only advice I can give you, though you might want to have an ear, nose and throat guy look at you. My girlfriend had a similar congestion problem, and they ultimately took out her adenoids, which made her much, much better.
posted by klangklangston at 1:18 PM on June 3, 2007

For me, when I'm getting nauseous I find that my mouth suddenly produces a ton of saliva. I've been led to believe that this is a pretty common experience. Could it be that you're feeling sick for other reasons, and the extra production is a result rather than a cause of your need to puke? Given your other symptoms this seems somewhat unlikely, but I thought I'd throw it out there just in case.
posted by vytae at 2:34 PM on June 3, 2007

Are your tonsils or throat overly swollen? I know that when I had tonsillitis really bad once, I was trying to swallow my tonsils, gagging, nearly vomiting, and then ... well, wash, rinse, repeat, except now I had stomach acid all over my swollen tonsils.
posted by SpecialK at 2:52 PM on June 3, 2007

And here I thought I was the only one who had this problem! Though maybe less severe, as I manage to stop at gagging.

I've never talked to a doctor about it, but I've always assumed it's some combination of the major gag reflex I've always had, plus chronic low-level allergies causing general sinus grossness. If you find out it's something more specific, please come back and post about it.

Unfortunately, I've never found anything much to do about except try to breathe shallowly and carefully until it passes. But it does seem like it happens less when I'm taking Claritin regularly to generally keep allergy issues down. It's entirely possible that the Claritin effect is psychosomatic, but it might be worth a try for you.
posted by Stacey at 2:54 PM on June 3, 2007

My salivary gland also produce excessive amounts of fluid in the miserable minutes before I blow chunks. Have you tried swallowing some Pepto Bismol? That stuff works great for me.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:23 PM on June 3, 2007

IANAD, yadda yadda, but I had the same problem, or one very similar. Gagging, vomiting, trouble breathing, chronic sinus problems, sleep apnea...

In my case the 'sinus/nose problems' you mentioned turned out to be the root of the problem. There are these things in your nose called turbinates (or 'nasal concha'), that control air-flow through your sinus passages and moisturize the air as it flows by. In my case the turbinates were so over-sized that they were restricting airflow, and the inferior turbinate (inferior in the sense that it is lower; it's actually the largest turbinate) was hanging back farther than it should, pressing down into the nasopharynx and soft palate, restricting airflow and triggering my gag reflex.

I had turbinate reduction surgery, and once I healed I felt like I was breathing for the first time... it was like there was a huge hole in my head, I couldn't believe how much air flows through a normal nose after living with mine all my life. Seriously, it was an almost religious experience.

It's worth seeing an ear/nose/throat doc and asking them about this... if it turns out to be your problem too, there's no need for you to continue suffering. Good luck.
posted by foobario at 6:17 PM on June 3, 2007

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