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Swallowed Object in Throat or Esophagus: Care Instructions


When you swallow food, liquid, or an object, it passes from your mouth and goes down your throat and esophagus and into your stomach. But sometimes these things can get stuck in your throat or esophagus. This may make you choke, cough, or gag. You may have pain when swallowing or trouble swallowing, even when swallowing your saliva. Some objects can cause more problems than others. Sharp, long, or large objects can scratch or cut your throat, your esophagus, and your stomach if they get stuck or if they are swallowed. When this happens, these areas can bleed or get infected.

If the object was stuck in your throat or esophagus, your doctor probably removed it. If you swallowed the object, your doctor may have suggested that you wait and see if the object comes out in your stool. Most swallowed objects will pass through your body without any problem and show up in your stool within a few days. If the object does not show up in your stool within 7 days, your doctor may order tests to find out where it is in your body.

Your throat may feel sore after you have had an object removed or have swallowed an object that has scratched your throat. It may hurt for a few days when you eat or swallow. The scratch itself may make it feel as if something is still stuck in your throat.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It is also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Drink liquids. If swallowing liquids is easy, try eating soft foods like bread or bananas. If these foods are easy to swallow, start to add other foods.
  • Avoid very hot or very cold foods.
  • If you swallowed an object and it has passed through to your stomach, try eating foods that are high in fibre, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods may help you pass the object more quickly.
  • Watch your stools to see if the object has passed. Do not use a laxative unless your doctor says that it is okay.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can irritate your throat and your esophagus even more. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

To prevent swallowing objects or choking:

  • Cut food into small pieces.
  • Eat slowly, take small bites, and chew your food all the way.
  • Do not laugh or talk with food in your mouth.
  • Do not eat or drink while you are doing something else, such as when you drive.
  • Do not hold objects, such as pins, nails, or toothpicks, in your mouth or between your lips.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink while you eat.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You pass out (lose consciousness).
  • You have chest pain.
  • You vomit a large amount of blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You have severe stomach pain.
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.
  • You can't swallow, even your own saliva.
  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have any stomach pain.
  • You have signs of an infection, such as:
    • Pain, swelling, or tenderness in or around your throat, neck, chest, or belly.
    • A fever.
    • A cough.
    • Shortness of breath.
  • You vomit a small amount of blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You have mild trouble breathing.
  • You have mild trouble swallowing.
  • You vomited more than one time since you had an object removed from your throat or esophagus or since you swallowed an object.
  • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You still feel like you have something stuck in your throat or esophagus.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.