Swallowed or Inhaled Objects - Topic Overview
When you swallow food, liquid, or an object, what is
swallowed passes from your mouth through your throat and
esophagus into your stomach. A swallowed object will
usually pass through the rest of your
digestive tract without problems and show up in your stool in a few days. If food
or a nonfood item gets stuck along the way, a problem may develop that will
require a visit to a doctor.
Sometimes when you try to swallow, the
swallowed substance "goes down the wrong way" and gets inhaled into your
windpipe or lungs (aspirated). This occurs most often in children who are
younger than 3 years and in adults who are older than age 50. When you
inhale a substance, coughing is a normal reaction of the body to clear the
throat and windpipe. The cough is helpful and may clear up the problem.
Inhaling a substance into your lungs can cause a lung inflammation and
infection (aspiration pneumonia).
The situation may
be more serious when:
- Signs of choking (complete airway
obstruction) are present. When the windpipe is blocked, air cannot move in and
out of the lungs and the person cannot talk, cry, breathe, or cough. A blocked windpipe is a
- Signs of a
partially blocked windpipe are present. When the
windpipe is partially blocked, some air can still move in and out of the lungs.
The person may gag, cough, or have trouble breathing. Coughing will often pop out the food or object and relieve the symptoms. The
choking rescue procedure is not recommended when the
windpipe is partially blocked.
object is stuck in the esophagus.
poisonous object has been swallowed, such as a wild mushroom, a plant, or a chemical. For more information, see the topic
button disc battery, magnet, or object with lead has been swallowed.
swallowed object doesn't show up in the stool within 7 days.