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Foreign Body Ingestion


  • Foreign body ingestion is the swallowing of an object other than food. This commonly happens in adults with mental health problems, including those affected by drugs or alcohol. Prisoners often swallow objects on purpose in the hope that they will be transferred to a hospital. Once an object is swallowed, it may get stuck in the esophagus or get trapped in the stomach. Swallowed objects usually pass through the entire digestive tract and out of the anus (rear end) without problems. Foreign bodies may include coins, pins, seeds, toothpicks, hair, or fish or animal bone.
    Picture of a normal digestive system
  • Pain in the neck, throat, chest, or abdomen (belly) may be symptoms of foreign body ingestion. You may have trouble swallowing, choking, gagging, vomiting (throwing up), or drooling. You may also have breathing problems, such as coughing or wheezing (high-pitched sound when breathing). Tests, such as barium swallow, computerized tomography (CT) scan, endoscopy, or x-rays may be needed for diagnosis. Treatment will depend on the object's type and size and how long it has been inside the body. You may need to have a procedure or surgery done to remove the foreign body. Your caregiver may suggest watchful waiting, until the object is passed out in your bowel movement. With treatment and care the foreign body will come out and more serious problems can be prevented.



  • Keep a current list of your medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Use vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him about any medicine allergies, and if you want to quit taking or change your medicine.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Bowel movement:

You may need to look in your stool every time you have a bowel movement (BM). This is done if caregivers think that the object is likely to be passed out of the body. Walking can help get your bowels moving. Foods like fruit, bran, and prune juice can help you have a BM. Drinking water can help too. Caregivers may give you fiber medicine. Do not use other medicines such as laxatives or stool softeners.

What to do if someone has foreign body ingestion:

  • Do first aid by doing the Heimlich maneuver if the person is having trouble breathing. Ask your caregiver for more information about how to do the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Do not give the person any medicine or chemical, or try to make the person vomit the object out. This may cause the object to get stuck in the airway.
  • Do not stick your finger or fingers into the person's throat to try to get the object out.

For more information:

Contact the following for more information:

  • American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE)
    1520 Kensington Road
    Oak Brook , IL 60523
    Phone: 1- 630 - 573-0600
    Phone: 1- 866 - 353-2743
    Web Address:


  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, treatment, or care.


  • You are not able to pass the object out in your stool after two or three days.
  • You are coughing, wheezing, or have noisy breathing.
  • You are vomiting, gagging, choking, drooling, have neck or throat pain, or cannot swallow.
  • You have abdominal pain or have blood in your bowel movements.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Foreign Body Ingestion (Discharge Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes