Woman rushed to hospital when face swells up on one side due to blocked salivary glands: 'Suck on a lemon drop'

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I witnessed firsthand; used with permission.

My mother went to the emergency room thinking she had a stroke. Fortunately, it was just a blocked salivary gland. The treatment? "Suck on a lemon drop or some Sour Patch Kids."

I rushed my mother to the hospital emergency room one night after the right side of her face swelled up like a balloon. Her face tingled, and if you looked at her from only the affected side, you might think she was going into anaphylactic shock.

At the emergency room, a doctor asked my mother what she was doing immediately before her face began to swell. She told them she was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when she felt a strange sensation in the right side of her mouth.

The doctor examined her and told her that her salivary glands were blocked, but only on one side of her mouth. Not all of them of course; humans have 1,000 salivary glands in their mouths, but it doesn't take that many to cause trouble.

My mother panicked. "Will I need surgery?" she asked.

That's when the doctor gave her the good news. No surgery was necessary. She wouldn't even need medication.

The doctor instructed my mother to suck on lemon drops or Sour Patch Kids. My mother was incredulous, but it worked.

We stopped at a vending machine in the hallway on our way out of the hospital and bought several bags of Sour Patch Kids. They didn't have any lemon drops.

It was an easy fix, but it still took five or six days before my mother's face went back to normal.

Fun fact, a salivary gland stone is called a sialolith.

My mother thought she was having a stroke.

This experience highlights how important it is to be aware of the symptoms of a stroke. A stroke occurs when there is a blockage or bleed in the brain, and can lead to paralysis, loss of speech, and even death.

The symptoms of a stroke include sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg; sudden confusion or trouble speaking; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking; and sudden dizziness, headache, or loss of balance. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to call 911 immediately and get to a hospital as soon as possible.

It is also important to be aware of the symptoms of a blocked salivary gland, so that you can avoid a trip to the emergency room if possible. Symptoms include pain in the affected area, swelling and tenderness in the cheeks, and dry mouth. If you experience any of these symptoms, try sucking on lemon drops or even sucking on a lemon wedge to increase saliva production and wash out the salivary stone.

And don't forget the Sour Patch Kids. It might be the most fun treatment a doctor has ever suggested to my mother. In fact, I'm sure of it.

Have you ever had a condition that required an unusual treatment? Comments are welcome.

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