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ASHA Glossary: Gag

A brainstem reflex commonly elicited by contact of a foreign stimulus with the back of the tongue, soft palate, or pharynx, resulting in contraction and elevation of the pharynx and larynx to push the stimulus up and out of the pharynx or to prevent entrance to the pharynx. This neuromuscular action is the opposite of the neuromuscular coordination used in swallow. The gag cannot be used to predict the presence or adequacy of a swallow and is not a protective reflex for a swallow. Gag can be elicited in some children by other factors, such as the smell or presence of food or an object on the tip of the tongue.

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