Information for the public

Controlling drooling

Having difficulty with swallowing or controlling muscles around the mouth can lead to your child drooling (dribbling). This can be distressing for them and you, and lead to health problems such as skin rashes. If your child is drooling, their care team should check first that anything making it worse has been treated, like dental problems, side effects of medicines or conditions like reflux (see vomiting, regurgitation and reflux).

There are different treatments that can help to reduce drooling, but not all of these are suitable for everyone. Some medicines can be taken as a tablet or through a feeding tube. Another type of medicine is given as a patch on the skin. The care team should discuss the options with you, and take into account your preferences and those of your child.

A further option is an injection of botulinum toxin A into the salivary glands, to reduce the production of saliva. Your child would need to be referred to a specialist for this treatment.

There should be regular checks by the care team to see whether treatments for drooling help and to watch out for side effects.

Another option – that should only be considered when your child is older and other treatments aren't suitable or haven't worked – is an operation to move their salivary glands so that saliva goes down their throat instead of forwards in their mouth. This is only possible if your child is able to swallow safely. A surgeon may discuss this option with you if your child might otherwise need to take medicine for drooling for the rest of their life.

Off-label medicines

At the time of publication some medicines for drooling may be recommended for 'off‑label' use. Your doctor should tell you this and explain what it means for you. There is more information about when medicines are used off‑label on NHS Choices.

Questions you or your child may want to ask

  • What could be causing my child's drooling?

  • Is there anything we can do to improve it?

  • Can you explain about the different treatments for drooling?

  • Which treatment might be best for my child?

  • Are there any side effects of the different treatments?

  • How often would botulinum toxin injections be given?

  • What would an operation involve?

  • Information Standard