How do you eliminate the gag reflex without going to the doctor?

how to get rid of gag reflex
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni


The gag reflex is a normal body reaction to avoid choking on foreign objects. It makes swallowing difficult. While beneficial for avoiding harmful substances, it can be problematic during dental treatments, when trying to swallow a pill, and oral cavity examinations. An oversensitive gag reflex can significantly disrupt daily life, causing discomfort and difficulty with routine tasks like eating and dental care. Triggered by minor stimuli such as tastes, smells, or throat sensations, it can lead to stress, avoidance behaviors, and social challenges. Managing it requires patience and a multi-faceted approach, including desensitization techniques and therapy, to gradually alleviate symptoms and restore confidence in daily activities.

Let us understand the gag reflex, its triggers, and how to manage it to significantly improve comfort and ease when the reflex may be triggered. This includes tips on how not to gag during specific examinations or treatments, ensuring a more comfortable patient experience.

Why is my gag reflex so sensitive all of a sudden?

Your gag reflex can become sensitive suddenly due to various reasons. Common causes include anxiety or stress, which can increase your body’s sensitivity to triggers. Illnesses like the flu, sore throat, uvulitis, or allergies can also heighten sensitivity. Changes in your diet, such as eating spicy or intensely flavored foods, can irritate your throat and increase gag reflex sensitivity. Certain medications, like those for high blood pressure, can also impact your gag reflex. Nasal obstruction, a history of smoking, hormonal changes like those during pregnancy, poorly fitting dentures or other dental appliances, and an irregularly shaped soft palate

 can also make your gag reflex more sensitive. Sometimes, there might not be an apparent cause for the sudden sensitivity. Still, it’s often a temporary issue that can be managed with relaxation techniques, desensitization exercises, or, if necessary, consultation with a doctor.

Tired of gagging? Consult now to find the cause and treatment!

How do you get rid of the gag reflex?

An overly sensitive gag reflex can be bothersome, affecting your health and daily routine. Try various techniques to find what works best for you to manage it. If you experience gagging during dental or medical visits, discuss the issue with your healthcare provider for alternative options. Here are some methods to help reduce gagging:

Psychological therapy for gag reflex

Psychological factors can contribute to gag reflex sensitivity. Therapy techniques such as diverting attention, relaxation, hypnotherapy, desensitization, and cognitive behavioral therapy may help.

Nasal decongestants and gag reflex

Nasal obstruction can be treated with decongestants, nasal corticosteroid sprays, nasal saline irrigation, or sometimes surgical interventions like septoplasty to correct structural issues in the nose. Clearing the nasal passages can alleviate pressure on the throat, reducing the likelihood of triggering the gag reflex.

Proton pump inhibitors 

Medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2-receptor antagonists can help reduce stomach acid production, alleviating reflux symptoms that often contribute to the gag reflex. Additionally, dietary modifications like avoiding spicy or acidic foods and eating smaller, more frequent meals can help prevent reflux.

Adjustment of dentures 

A dentist can adjust or replace poorly fitting dentures or dental appliances to ensure a proper fit. A well-fitted dental appliance reduces irritation in the mouth and throat, decreasing the likelihood of triggering the gag reflex.

Quit smoking

Quitting smoking can improve overall throat health by reducing irritation and inflammation. Over time, this can decrease sensitivity in the throat, making it less likely to trigger the gag reflex.

Surgery for anatomical abnormalities leading to gag reflex

Surgical options may be available to reshape the soft palate, although these are typically reserved for severe cases. Speech therapy techniques can also help manage the gag reflex associated with an irregular soft palate, such as desensitization exercises or learning techniques to control swallowing and gagging responses.

Nitrous oxide or anesthesia

Local or general Anesthesia can help relieve the gag reflex during medical or dental procedures. Nitrous oxide is another option for specific guidelines.

Treatment changes

Inform your dentist or doctor about your sensitive gag reflex before treatment. They can modify their approach or provide a prosthetic to alleviate the issue. For example, modified dentures can reduce gag reflex.

Acupuncture or acupressure

These ancient techniques can help minimize the gag reflex by balancing your body’s energy. Acupuncture uses needles, while acupressure applies pressure to specific body points.

Your gagging may be a cause of an underlying medical problem. Consult now for a diagnosis

Topical ointments and medications

Some medications, like antihistamines or sedatives, can reduce gag reflex severity by controlling nausea or relaxing throat muscles.


Antibiotics primarily target bacterial infections, not directly the gag reflex. However, if an infection is causing inflammation or irritation in the throat or respiratory tract, antibiotics may reduce swelling and discomfort, potentially easing the gag reflex indirectly, leading to no gag reflex once infections settle. You can get an online consultation to rule out the symptoms and diagnose your cause.

Maintain good respiratory hygiene

Paroxysmal coughing, characterized by sudden, intense coughing fits, can trigger the gag reflex due to the forceful contractions of the throat muscles. Identifying and treating the underlying cause of the cough, such as asthma or respiratory infections, is crucial to prevent this. Additionally, maintaining good respiratory hygiene, avoiding irritants, staying hydrated, and using prescribed medications as directed by a healthcare professional can help minimize paroxysmal coughing and associated gagging.

Other considerations

Don’t let the gag reflex interfere with your health. Seek help from your doctor or dentist to find solutions, such as adjusted oral hygiene procedures or specific products like gag reflex-friendly toothpaste. Managing gag reflexes is essential to ensure proper medical care and overall well-being.

How to desensitize the gag reflex quickly? 

Desensitizing the gag reflex quickly can be challenging, but there are some techniques you can try. 

Gently brushing the back of your tongue

Use a tongue scraper or toothbrush to brush your tongue’s back gently. Start from the middle of your tongue and gradually move towards the back. This can help desensitize the area over time by progressively getting your body used to the sensation. It is an effective technique and exercise to help individuals learn how to stop their gag reflex. 

Use numbing throat sprays or lozenges

Consider using numbing throat sprays or lozenges before activities that trigger your gag reflex. These products contain anesthetic agents that temporarily numb the back of your throat, reducing sensitivity. Follow the instructions and use them sparingly to avoid adverse effects.

Temporal tap

This technique involves tapping around the ear to stimulate the vestibular system, which can reduce gag reflex sensitivity.

Changing swallowing technique

Adjusting how you swallow, such as using a small-necked bottle to drink water while taking pills or pointing your chin downwards when swallowing a tablet, can help.

When should I see a doctor?

You should consider seeing a doctor if:

  • If your gag reflex is causing significant discomfort or interfering with your daily life
  • If you experience frequent gagging or choking episodes
  • If you experience chronic nausea and vomiting, trouble swallowing, throat pain, or other symptoms in addition to your gag reflex
Discuss how to get rid of oversensitive gag reflexes with a medical professional. Consult now

FAQs about rosacea treatment

Are there any risks to suppressing my gag reflex?

Suppressing your gag reflex can lead to risks such as choking, as the reflex protects your airway. Overusing numbing agents or desensitization techniques may also cause throat irritation or allergic reactions.

How do you treat an overactive gag reflex?

Try desensitization techniques like gradually touching the back of your tongue to treat an overactive gag reflex. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, can also help.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Leder, Steven B. “Gag reflex and dysphagia.” Head & Neck: Journal for the Sciences and Specialties of the Head and Neck 18.2 (1996): 138-141.
  • Prashanti, Eachempati, et al. “Management of gag reflex for patients undergoing dental treatment.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 10 (2015).
  • Davies, A. E., et al. “Pharyngeal sensation and gag reflex in healthy subjects.” The Lancet 345.8948 (1995): 487-488.
  • Eachempati, Prashanti, et al. “Management of gag reflex for patients undergoing dental treatment.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 11 (2019).

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