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Home > Health Library > Swallowed or Inhaled Objects
When you swallow food, liquid, or an object, what is swallowed passes from your mouth through your throat (esophagus) and into your stomach. A swallowed object will usually pass through the rest of your digestive tract without problems> it will show up in your stool in a few days. If food or a nonfood item gets stuck along the way, you may end up with a problem that will require a visit to a doctor.
Sometimes when you try to swallow, the swallowed substance "goes down the wrong way." It gets breathed in to your windpipe or lungs (aspirated). This happens most often in children who are younger than 3 years and in adults who are older than age 50. When you breathe in (inhale) a substance, coughing is your body's normal response. It's the way your body tries to clear your throat and windpipe. The cough is helpful, and it 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 a person:
About 80% to 90% of swallowed objects, like chewing gum, are harmless and pass through the digestive tract without problems. But some types of objects can cause more serious problems when they are swallowed. These objects include:
Your doctor may recommend tests such as an X-ray, endoscopy, or barium swallow. These tests can help find the object if it doesn't come out in the stool or if an inhaled object isn't coughed out. A special metal detector might be used. It can help locate a metal object, such as a coin, inside the body. Your doctor may then recommend a procedure to remove the object. Or your doctor may encourage you to keep checking the stool to be sure the object passes out of the body.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Blood in the stool can come from anywhere in the digestive tract, such as the stomach or intestines. Depending on where the blood is coming from and how fast it is moving, it may be bright red, reddish brown, or black like tar.
A little bit of bright red blood on the stool or on the toilet paper is often caused by mild irritation of the rectum. For example, this can happen if you have to strain hard to pass a stool or if you have a hemorrhoid.
A large amount of blood in the stool may mean a more serious problem is present. For example, if there is a lot of blood in the stool, not just on the surface, you may need to call your doctor right away. If there are just a few drops on the stool or in the diaper, you may need to let your doctor know today to discuss your symptoms. Black stools may mean you have blood in the digestive tract that may need treatment right away, or may go away on its own.
Certain medicines and foods can affect the color of stool. Diarrhea medicines (such as Pepto-Bismol) and iron tablets can make the stool black. Eating lots of beets may turn the stool red. Eating foods with black or dark blue food coloring can turn the stool black.
If you take aspirin or some other medicine (called a blood thinner) that prevents blood clots, it can cause some blood in your stools. If you take a blood thinner and have ongoing blood in your stools, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Severe trouble breathing means:
Moderate trouble breathing means:
Mild trouble breathing means:
Disc batteries are small, round batteries used in toys, cameras, watches, and other devices. Because of the chemicals they can release, they can cause serious problems if they are swallowed or get stuck in an ear or the nose. Small magnets used in household items and objects that contain a lot of lead (such as bullets, buckshot, fishing weights and sinkers, and some toys) also can cause problems if swallowed.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Here are some things you can do at home that help relieve discomfort after you swallow an object into your digestive tract.
Your doctor or the poison control center can tell you if vomiting is recommended. It could cause you to inhale (aspirate) the object into your windpipe or lungs.
Ipecac is no longer used to treat poisonings. If you have syrup of ipecac in your home, call your pharmacist for instructions on how to dispose of it and throw away the container. Don't use the container to store anything else.
If swallowing fluids is easy, try eating soft bread or a banana. If eating soft bread or a banana is easy, try adding other foods. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help move the swallowed object through the digestive tract. Keep drinking more fluids until the object has passed in your stool. Extra fluid will help the object move through the digestive tract. The object should pass within 7 days. Watch your stools to see if the object has passed. Don't use a laxative unless your doctor tells you to.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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