Dear Wine Kitty... I am replying to your post because I just did the exact thing you had trouble with. I was actually in a sandwich shop not thirty minutes ago and standing around waiting for the sandwich I ordered.
I basically went to swallow, and some saliva apparently went right down my windpipe and I coughed immediately in a reflexive attempt to clear my airway. This violent cough had the effect of seeming to constrict my throat/air passage and then when immediately trying to breathe in to get air, hardly any air could pass through! Trying to force air into my lungs by inhaling strongly produced this horrible strangling/wheezing noise from my vocal cords I guess, and I started looking around to see if anyone was hearing my distress. So, here is what I did... (because this has happened to me before, maybe 6 or 8 times in the last ten years. The first time was while I was simply taking a swig of coffee while at a photo studio at 2pm in the afternoon. I was horrified and couldn't get any air!!!! The more I coughed and tried to suck in air, the more tightly it seemd my throat was just closing up! I was scared ****less because I thought I was literally going to suffocate to death right in front of shocked onlookers!!!)
All I could do was try to relax and swallow WITHOUT trying to breathe, which is excruciatingly hard to do because I already felt like I was out of air and desperately needed to breathe in!!! So when I did have to breathe in with that raggedy, gasping wheezing noise, the first breath inward hardly let ANY air in at all, but just enough to try to hold steady and force my throat to try to relax again. Then when it felt like I was ready to pass out from no air, I sucked in another ragged, raspy breath, and a tiny bit more air came in. But still, I am looking around thinking I should signal to somebody that I was choking and needed help. This ridiculous scenario is quite embarrassing and seems even more ridiculous because I was reluctant to try to get anyone's help, since I didn't know what they COULD DO anyway! There was no chunk of food lodged for someone to do a Heimlich Maneuver or whatever, but how crazy is it to be literally suffocating in front of people on my own saliva!!!! Also to compound the bizarre and panic-loaded scenario, I was also waiting for someone to finish using the men's restroom... (I had to go pretty badly)...he came out, and even while doing this choking, relaxing my throat and coughing and gagging and repeating all of it, I went in to the bathroom wondering the whole time if I might actually pass out while standing at the urinal!!! I am not joking one bit... the forced relaxing in between breaths gradually started to help and unbelievably I started to get back to normal breathing. But freaked out and slightly shaking, the panic subsided and after coming out of the restroom still coughing and trying to harshly and loudly clear my throat, I was still sheepishly looking around to see if anyone was noticing.
As soon as got back to my office I started Googling around online about choking on saliva to see if anyone else has experienced the same thing.
So far I have not seen any real medical analysis of this and now I wonder if I should go see a doctor. It is positively sheer terror when it happens and I kind of live with some mild fear of when it will happen again. I wonder if maybe the next time, the relaxing of my throat won't work and I will just pass out onto the floor or ground or in my car!!!
I am in good health, 59 years old, pretty active and athletic. I wonder if this is some kind of age thing, but not knowing your age and health, I don't know. It sounds like exactly the same thing. I think the gum thing has happend also to me before. Kind of like an unusual, quick build-up of saliva can trigger it. Please fire back any other thoughts you have about this, because you are NOT ALONE and I want to find out WTF is wrong with me also!!! Perry in Boulder, CO.