Position the patient upright and check for a gag reflex or at least some indication of an intact airway protective response. The famous ramrodding a patients posterior pharynx with a tongue depressor is not what I had in mind. The gagging and retching elicited by this cruel trick does not necessarily indicate a protective response against aspiration. A kinder, gentler method of assessment involves asking the patient to say "Ahhh" and observing if the uvula and posterior pharynx retract. I have also been told that an intact blink reflex indicates an intact gag reflex because the same nerves are involved. Cross over of neural impulses makes me hesitant to trust eye blinks as an indicator of airway protection.
Caution is the key so don't even think about injecting fluids into a patient's mouth with an Asepto or using drinking straws. The suction applied to a straw to permit atmospheric pressure to propel the liquid into the mouth can compromise airway protective reflexes. The act of applying suction can impede the transition to an airway protecting response.
Drinking from a glass replicates a familiar experience for the patient, but hyperextending the neck by tilting the head back to drink opens up the airway. The epiglottis is repositioned from closing the trachea-something to be avoided at all cost.
The secret to keeping the epiglottis positioned over the trachea when swallowing from a glass is to keep the chin level or even slightly tucked down. How do you raise the glass to drink without tilting your head back? All it takes is a few snips of your trusty bandage scissors to create an aspiration resistant drinking device.
Cut a nose clearance notch in the side of a paper cup and you can drink without tilting your head back maintaining the airway. Just drink from the side opposite the open notch and as the cup is tilted up to take a sip the opening accommodates the protuberating nose. The mandible remains level and the epiglottis remains intact covering the trachea.
Smaller notch for more petite noses. This
aspiration resistant cup works perfectly for
Oldfoolrn's like me.