*cough* *gag*
August 10, 2007 5:04 PM   Subscribe

This morning I woke up choking on my uvula. What the hell do I do?

It feels like a giant loogie trying to force its way back down my throat. Then I cough it up, and it feels like it's about to be torn from my mouth. Is there anything I can do to make my mouth situation less incredibly, cripplingly annoying? Also, any insights on why this would happen to an excessively average and previously problem-free uvula would be appreciated. Full disclosure: my tonsils have been a little swollen lately (a bit of sore throat), but this is the first time the U-man has made himself so painfully evident.
posted by tehloki to Health & Fitness (34 answers total)
This happened to a friend of mine, due to excessive cocaine consumption (which apparently makes your uvula swell). Is this a problem for you?
posted by goo at 5:08 PM on August 10, 2007

Well, I had mine cut out with a laser.
posted by nicwolff at 5:19 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Errr, I smoke a lot of pot, and do a lot of soft psychedelics, but once again, I haven't done anything out of the ordinary recently, and this has never really been a problem before.
posted by tehloki at 5:22 PM on August 10, 2007

Do you have allergies?

My siblings and I have multiple allergies. Frankly, we're pretty lucky to still be alive. Waking up and choking on our uvula is a semi-common occurence in my family. Normally I take an antihistamine and swelling goes away.
posted by Cog at 5:24 PM on August 10, 2007

Response by poster: No allergies - and I've been tested.
posted by tehloki at 5:26 PM on August 10, 2007

Best answer: It might be caused by the same thing as the tonsils, or it might be that your immune system is worn down a bit dealing with whatever the tonsil thing is, which has given something else (like strep) a chance to make a jailbreak in your uvula.

Basically, it's either viral, bacterial, or allergy. It's unlikely to be allergy, since you've never had it before, but if you insist on ruling that out, take some anti-hystimine. If it's viral, it will be gone in a few days. If it's not viral, then it may persist and your doctor might decide that you need antibiotics.

Or you could go to the doctor today, have them swab it to find out what it is, and perhaps they can offer something that helps with the swelling in the short term, but you should probably expect that whatever it is and whatever happens you may need to endure some annoyance for a while. I'd never had anything like it before. It feels really weird.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:28 PM on August 10, 2007

Mono does this and I suppose all other kinds of infections could do it, too.
posted by Skwirl at 5:28 PM on August 10, 2007

Response by poster: Ooh, crap. I've already had mono once (this didn't happen then), but is it possible to get it twice?

Also: I'll try an antihystamine. I've been using cepacol lozenges (the ones that numb your throat) to kill my gag reflex, but I'm growing tired of having a numb mouth and not being able to taste anything.
posted by tehloki at 5:33 PM on August 10, 2007

I once has a swollen uvula of the WTF-is-that-back-there type after a party at which I smoked cigarettes and drank a lot of rye whiskey (I hardly ever touch any type of whisky).

I was disgusting and went away after a day, as did my hangover.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 5:40 PM on August 10, 2007

Response by poster: It's weird that a lot of the swollen uvulas have come from substance use/abuse... if anything, I've cut back on my smoking, toking, and drinking these past few days due to 12-hour days at work.
posted by tehloki at 5:42 PM on August 10, 2007

Best answer: Might be a good time to see if you have sleep apnea, which can be caused by an enlarged uvula, which in turn causes snoring, which causes swelling. ad infinitum
posted by idiotfactory at 5:44 PM on August 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hmmm.. last time I crashed on a friend's couch, he did mention I was snoring at a frightening volume. How do I get "checked out" for sleep apnea?
posted by tehloki at 5:51 PM on August 10, 2007

I've had this happen to me a couple of times, always when I already had a cold. Maybe I didn't have it as bad as others here because it always went away after a day or so. It was very annoying. I drank lots of ice water because I needed the fluids and hoped it would reduce the swelling. At the very least, that did make it feel better.
posted by SteveTheRed at 5:52 PM on August 10, 2007

Tehloki, this sounds like you. Please go get it checked out (including the sleep apnea thing).

Derail - Though, in a sick way, if you did end up kicking the bucket by choking on your uvula, what a great topic that would make at Meetups...ok, I'll stop now.
posted by Liosliath at 5:56 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Apparently this is pretty common. One of my profs in pharmacy school had an enlarged uvula, and got it surgically reduced. Not surprisingly, it's exacerbated by smoking, drinking alcohol, and by allergies.

Ask your doctor to refer you for a sleep study. It's kind of a hassle, but so well worth it. You have to spend the night in a sleep lab with various sensors attached to you. They record your snoring patterns, number of night awakenings, etc. The reason it's worth doing is that people with untreated sleep apnea live much shorter lives than the rest of us. Plus, getting a good night's sleep dramatically improves your quality of life.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:03 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by caddis at 6:16 PM on August 10, 2007

Response by poster: what?
posted by tehloki at 6:43 PM on August 10, 2007

CPAP doesn't work on 80% of people. My mom had her uvula and some tissue in the back of her throat removed due to sleep apnea... the only thing is she chokes a little more easily now. And not life-or-death choking, necessarily... more like "water went down the wrong way" choking.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:43 PM on August 10, 2007

_The Promise of Sleep_ by William Dement covers sleep apnea, snoring, CPAP, restless leg, sleep studies, the whole nine yards.
posted by bukvich at 6:54 PM on August 10, 2007

If you smoke a lot of pot, is it possible that you got a batch that had weird pesticides on it or something, which irritated your uvula? Just a thought...
posted by indienial at 8:01 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

my particular uvula-swelling was associated with tonsilloliths.

The tonsilloliths would cause minor inflamation which would spread to the uvula and make it impossible to get to sleep.

I bought a hydro pulse which I use to occasionally wash away the tonsilloliths, and this has mostly eliminated the problem.

I also found putting a drop or two of Heilpflanzenöl (on idea what this is in english) in my mouth and rubbing some on my upper lip to be very helpful in getting to sleep when bothered by this problem -- I think anything with menthol in it would do the trick.

I think possibly switching to latex pillows may have helped as well. At any rate, they are much more comfortable so it's worth a try. The reason they are supposed to help is that supposedly far fewer dust mites live in the latex, but this may be quackery.
posted by lastobelus at 8:03 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: There's been a lot of helpful diagnoses, but few short-term solutions to hold me until I can go to the doctor. Should I just keep popping the cepacol lozenges until I'm numb enough to get to sleep tonight?
posted by tehloki at 9:38 PM on August 10, 2007

This happened to me, and I ended up going to the doctor and getting a steroid shot, plus antibiotics on the assumption that it was caused by strep throat.

Yes, keep popping lozenges. Keep yourself hydrated by sipping on fluids, too. Dehydration seems to make it worse. Also, take your anti-inflammatory of choice (mine is acetaminophin). Mine was swollen enough that I was actually gagging on it, and I could barely speak. If yours is this bad, go to an after-hours clinic; if not, try and make sure you can get to the doctor tomorrow.

And please, feel better! If your uvula swells up and kills you, who will favorite my sarcastic Metafilter comments?
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:50 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think I can program deathswitch to favorite at least 100 of them.

Well, I've downed a few tylenol and after about an hour, I seem not to be choking on it as much. I'll sleep on my face tonight to avoid premature death, and go to the doctor tomorrow. Thanks for the fleshing out of my problem, mefi. I was worried it was some kind of horrible disease they would make a TV show about, and then hire somebody really annoying to play me.
posted by tehloki at 10:52 PM on August 10, 2007

I always found that smoking dope when I had any kind of sore throat would make it take a long time to get better. Maybe gargle some strong salt water and lay off the smoke for a while.
posted by flabdablet at 4:40 AM on August 11, 2007

Slippery elm tea with lemon might help.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:21 AM on August 11, 2007

This happens to me all the damn time, and no, there is no cocaine (or other illicit substance) involved. It's called uvulitis, and it's an inflammatory response, usually to an infection or allergy. The fastest way to get the swelling down is a good old injection of steroids, which you can get at your local urgent care center. Otherwise, any anti-inflammatory will help -- I like naproxen (aleve) myself, but advil, etc. will also work. Tylenol is good for pain, but not so good for inflammation. Anyway, the permanent fix is surgery, but it's not a fun procedure, and probably not worthwhile unless your problem is recurrent or it's so severe that it threatens to occlude your airway. Good allergy treatment will also help if allergies are a factor for you.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 9:05 AM on August 11, 2007

I would never recommend this, but having similar uvular difficulties, one night I cut mine off with a pair of scissors. The next 2 weeks were filled with the worst sore throat I'd ever had.

Later (upon moving back to canada) I had a proper uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), they took out my tonsils, carved back my soft palate and completely removed any vestige of uvula I had left. Now I don't snore and I breathe better - no more choking.
posted by isopraxis at 10:17 AM on August 11, 2007 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: isopraxis: *distant screaming*
posted by tehloki at 1:20 PM on August 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Damn, Canadians are hard core.

It might be a good idea to know how to do the heimlich maneuver on yourself, though, seriously.
posted by selfmedicating at 3:09 PM on August 11, 2007

Yeah. . . its crzy. I was emboldened by a good share of whiskey. And the little nub of flesh floating in the toilet totally freaked my roomate out when he saw it and the pair of slightly bloody barber scissors sitting in the sink. I'd gone outside to spit blood in the great outdoors and shout drunken taunts at the gods of apnea.
posted by isopraxis at 3:59 PM on August 11, 2007

CPAP doesn't work on 80% of people.

I think it's more that 80% of people aren't compliant. Which can be hard, admittedly.

isopraxis: I don't have enough shudders in me to react appropriately to that story.
posted by averyoldworld at 7:25 AM on August 13, 2007

Response by poster: This CPAP sounds like a good solution, as I've been starting to snork myself awake lately. What is meant by "80% of people aren't compliant"?
posted by tehloki at 4:44 PM on August 13, 2007

It can be uncomfortable. You basically wear a mask with a hose attached which forces air into your lungs. If you do go that route, don't cheap out, get a good one that fits, is light and feels as comfortable as possible. The surgery is also supposed to help some people (although I wouldn't try this yourself at home, even with proper instrumentation, no matter what amount of whiskey available) and if you have an overbite I think there are night time dental appliances for holding things in better position to keep the airways open. I don't know if you are overweight or drink but those are two other things that can be addressed for some people.
posted by caddis at 6:37 PM on August 13, 2007

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