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Feels like salad got inhaled down the wrong pipe. What are the risks?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2005
Answered : 2408 Questions
Hello. Last night I was talking while eating and felt some of my taco salad start to get inhaled down the wrong pipe. I coughed, but I am not sure if some of it aspirated into my lungs. I tried to cough something up, but was not able to. If I did inhale some food, will it eventually dissolve or be coughed up?
Posted Wed, 21 Nov 2012 in General Health
Answered by Dr. Shanthi.E 4 hours later

The fact that the episode occurred last night and that you are comfortable (no symptoms) until now, tells us that you are safe and nothing is untowardly serious with your current health status.

There is a chance that some of it may be aspirated into the lungs. However, it is not significant enough to cause major symptoms like breathing difficulty, choking or shortness of breath. And, this happens as an acute onset needing emergency medical attention.

By all probabilities, you are safe and nothing is wrong.

Yes, small food particles do get dissolved and is coughed up too.

To be on the safer side, you may consider getting a plain x-ray of your chest to rule out any such possibility.

If you develop fever, purulent cough, difficulty in breathing in the next one week, you may require a course of prophylactic antibiotic.

My clinical experience says that you are normal and nothing to worry.

Hope this helps you. Do let me know if you have more concerns.

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