Your Tracheostomy Tube: Tips for Eating

Knife and apple pieces.When you first get your tracheostomy (trach), you may have some trouble eating and swallowing. A speech therapist (a person trained to help people with problems swallowing) or feeding specialist will work with you to improve these skills as needed. Most patients are able to return to their usual eating habits after healing from the surgery is complete and swallowing has improved. Here are some things to keep in mind when eating with a trach tube.

Tips for eating with a trach tube

  • Follow any diet instructions given by your healthcare provider or speech therapist. For instance, you may be told to avoid certain foods or drinks that are hard to swallow.

  • If you have a cuffed tube, ask your healthcare provider whether you should deflate it before you eat. Also, ask your healthcare provider whether you should suction your tube before you eat.

  • When eating, sit up straight. Eat slowly and chew food well before you swallow.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids help keep your mucus thin and prevent mucus buildup. At first, you may be advised to drink thicker fluids, such as soups and nonalcoholic blended drinks. As you get used to the tube, you may be able to go back to drinking thinner liquids, such as water. Your healthcare provider and speech therapist will give you detailed instruction on how to advance your fluid and food intake specific to your needs.

  • Prevent constipation by eating plenty of fiber. This is found in whole-grain foods, bran, fruits, vegetables, and beans.

  • Be aware that your sense of smell may be affected. This can happen because you are mainly breathing through your neck, and not your nose. It is important to label food expiration dates because you may not recognize the odor of spoiled foods.

A warning about aspiration

If you aspirate food (breathe it into your airway), stay calm. Try to suction the food out through your trach tube. If you can’t remove the food, call 911 right away.