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What is the Death Rattle?

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Updated June 04, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

The so-called "death rattle" refers to a gurgling sound that individuals often make during the dying process. When people are no longer able to swallow or cough, saliva builds up in the back of the throat and the airways causing a "rattling" sound when air passes through.

While the death rattle can be very hard for family members to listen to, it is a normal end-of-life event that is not uncomfortable for those who are dying. If family members are distressed, there are medications that can be used to dry up some of the excess secretions that contribute to the death rattle.

Learn more:

Alternate Spellings: death-rattle

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