What Happens If You Swallow a Bug?

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What Happens If You Swallow a Bug?

Lee este articuloDid a bug ever fly in your mouth? Usually, the story ends there. You spit it out. Goodbye, bug. But sometimes — gulp! — you might swallow it so it ends up in your stomach. Less often, someone might inhale a bug into the lungs.

You have probably heard that old children's song "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." Most people don't swallow flies. But we know of someone who's sure she swallowed a tiny gnat. Another boy had a close call when a yellowjacket flew out of his can of soda and into his mouth while he was taking a sip. (He spit it out before getting stung.) And would you believe that someone said she inhaled a lightning bug and could feel it in her lungs?

There are two paths a swallowed bug might take:

  1. down the esophagus (food tube) into the stomach
  2. down the trachea (windpipe) into the lungs

If the bug ends up in your stomach, it will get mashed up and digested just like any other food. And whatever's left of it will "come out the other end" when you go to the bathroom. It's gross, but unlikely to cause you any more trouble.

If you feel like you inhaled the bug and you think it could be in your lungs, tell a parent or another adult. Usually this will make you cough and feel a little uncomfortable. Your mom or dad will want to check with your doctor. Unlike your stomach, your lungs won't digest the bug.

In your lungs, the bug will get trapped in a layer of slimy mucus. Maybe you're thinking "Gross, there's slime in my lungs!" But it's good to know the mucus is there for a reason. It protects your lungs and airways from situations just like this one. The mucus helps your lungs stay clear so that you can breathe properly. In other words, no bugs allowed!

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2014
Originally reviewed by: Aaron S. Chidekel, MD

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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