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What should one do if food goes into the wind pipe and one gets choked ?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 1995
Answered : 4036 Questions
Hi! I had an interesting incident tonight. I was taking two motrin with water and started laughing in middle when I heard a joke. I began to choke/aspirate and most of the water came out, including one of the motrin pills. It took a few seconds for me to catch my breath, as I was caughing very intensely. I am assuming/hoping the other motrin went down my espophagus, or it would have popped out as well. My breathing seems okay (no wheezing), but I do have lingering chest pain. I don't know if it is from the very intense coughing to get all the water out...or the anxiety I feel...wondering if there is a motrin stuck in my lungs...if it will cause an infeciton/pneumonia G-D forbid! My mother thinks I shouldn't worry and get a good night's rest. I would appreciate a response/advice...Thanks!
Posted Mon, 7 May 2012 in General Health
Answered by Dr. Pragnesh Vachharajani 42 minutes later

Thanks for posting your query.

Your mother is right, I too think that there is no reason to worry.

What you had is a very common thing happening to many. Normally what happens when we eat the valve of the food pipe is open and one of respiratory passage is closed to avoid food getting into it. There is mechanism in place which controls it from brain.

At times when you laugh or speak while eating, the food or tablet in your case wrongly try to enter the air pipe. Over body has got a very strong defense mechanism so that you had very intense cough reflex so as to prevent tablet from entering in to air pipe.

By and large in a fully conscious patient because of this intense reflex mechanism of our body, it is not possible that the food can enter air pipe.

Please relax, the pain that you are having must be because of intense cough. If by accident the pill has gone down to air pipe, you should have continuous coughing, difficulty in breathing and pain in chest etc.

Relax and go to sleep. Please take care next time and avoid eating or any conversations during having food.

I hope this answers your query,I will be available for another set of joke,sorry another query in follow up.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: What should one do if food goes into the wind pipe and one gets choked ? 34 minutes later
Thank you for your prompt response! I am sure you and my mother are right. I do feel some lingering chest pain at rest and when I breath, but it is not so strong that it is impairing my breathing. Should I just assume it is related to the anxiety and it will probably pass with time? Also, chances are the other motrin pill was swallowed or it would have been expelled like the second pill? Thank you!
Answered by Dr. Pragnesh Vachharajani 13 minutes later

Good to hear from you again.

Do not worry, the pain will pass with time. Anxiety or fear of unknown is anticipated.

It is difficult to tell about the second tablet, it might have been thrown out with the vomitus or would be absorbed.

In any case this is no reason for concern.

Hope this answers your query.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: What should one do if food goes into the wind pipe and one gets choked ? 1 hour later
Thank you for almost allaying all my worries!

Please bear with me - my last question - (and I apologize - I know I sound ridiculous at this point!) I had walking pneumonia this past December, as well as two years ago. Does this put me at risk for developing it again? I went online when this incident happened tonight (which was probably a silly thing to do) and read that one can develop an infection/pneumonia from aspiration, etc. incident - when a foreign body enters the lungs (G-D forbid!) I apologize for my neurotic questions! Thank you.
Answered by Dr. Pragnesh Vachharajani 43 minutes later

Good to see you back.

My first advise would be to laugh at least 10 times before doing anything. This will relax you and you will be free from worry.

Lets, get back to business,

History of pneumonia in past does not increase the chances of getting it in future.

Second thing, yes you have read it right, aspiration of foreign body into lungs can lead to pneumonia. As I have written earlier in a conscious individual aspiration is not routinely possible. Our body has a very strong reflex mechanism which will not allow this.

Wish You a good health.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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