The Ins and Outs of The Death Rattle

The Ins and Outs of The Death Rattle

As someone nears death, their body starts to show signs of this. Breathing patterns change, making an unusual noise. This is known as the death rattle. What is the death rattle?A death rattle is a sound made by people who can’t swallow or cough well enough to get rid of their saliva at the end of their lives. A death rattle can be hard to hear, but it usually doesn’t hurt or bother the patient.

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What Causes Death Rattle?

People who are ill or who aren’t awake all the time make a “death rattle.” They can’t cough or swallow enough to get the secretions out of the back of their throat. Some of these secretions are normal saliva and mucus, which most people can swallow and clear without any trouble.

Because of these things, a person’s breathing may also be different. Their breathing may be all over the place, and they may take shallow or deep breaths simultaneously. As someone’s breath sounds like rattling in chest when breathing out, it may be thought of as “labored,” or it may look like the person is having trouble breathing. There are secretions in the back of the throat that are being hit by deeper, more powerful breaths. This may make their death rattle sound louder when they take a deeper breath.

Symptoms of Death Rattle

When someone dies, they make a crackling, wet sound that gets louder as they breathe in and out. Sometimes, the sound is soft and moan-like. It can sometimes sound familiar or loud like someone snoring or gargling, but it can also be quiet.

These sounds might make loved ones think the person is “drowning” or choking. If these noises bother or upset someone, people need to be aware that there is no proof that this is the case. The patient may also have the following things happen to them near the end of their life:

  • Confusion, drowsiness,
  • Coolness, or coldness of the extremities
  • Blue-tinted or mottled skin
  • Irregular breathing
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There is no evidence that death rattles mean the dying person is in pain or distracted. On the other hand, family and friends may find the sound upsetting or scary. Healthcare workers may be able to give some treatments that can help cut down on the noise. Some of these treatments are:

  • The patient is moved so that their head is raised, and they turn to their side as this makes the secretions less likely to stay in the back of the throat.
  • Cutting down on oral fluid intake or using drugs that “dry” secretions, like glycopyrrolate or hyoscyamine, may also help. Mouth care, like using barely moistened mouth swabs and gently suctioning the mouth, has also been proven effective.
  • Deep suctioning of the person’s mouth may clear the secretions for a short time, but it can be very upsetting to the person, and the sounds will almost certainly come back after a while.
However, because death rattle breathing is often a sign of death, it may not be possible to completely get rid of the sound.

Is Death Near?

Many people question how long it will take someone to die if they develop a death rattle sound. It varies widely from person to person, making estimating what the rattle signifies in terms of time challenging.

You might be wondering what else to expect as a patient reaches the end of their life. Terminal restlessness is common at this time, and your loved one may appear agitated.

They may also exhibit near-death awareness and inform you that they are dying. At this time, many people begin to speak of seeing loved ones who have passed away, and some even begin to smile. Rather than correcting them, simply appreciate them.

Maintain the Rapport With the Patient

It’s difficult to be with a loved one when they are about to die, but it’s the most loving thing someone can do. When people discuss their greatest fear in life, it is frequently dying alone. Your presence is the most valuable gift you can give.

Don’t stop talking to your beloved friend or relative. Hearing is regarded to be the last sense to go, so even if they appear to be unconscious, they may still sense your presence or hear what you’re saying.

At the same time, you must look after yourself like your loved one would. Everyone requires a break from time to time, and now more than ever, this is critical. The death rattle is just one of many warning signs of dying from aspiration pneumonia. If you need to take a break, don’t be scared to do so.


Knowing something does not necessarily make experiencing it easier. That could be true while you listen to a loved one with a death rattle, knowing in your head that it’s a typical part of the dying process but feeling heartbroken nevertheless. This is a common occurrence as well. Don’t be afraid to talk about it with a family member, the hospice team, or anyone else you feel comfortable discussing your feelings. If you need help finding a suitable caregiver, we are eager to help.

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