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I'm well aware of the health effects of aspirating solid food and liquids, but I'm interested in the reaction of the body on the biological level to the strange body on our lungs.

After I almost aspirated corn, I started to wander: what does the body do when food got on our lungs?

Will it be eventually absorbed? Destroyed by our white cells? Or just lie there forever until it fully decomposes?

The body has mechanisms to prevent food to get into the lungs, so the body is aware that eventually some food will get into the lungs. As a result, it makes sense to believe that our body would have a mechanism to deal with such issue if all other mechanisms fail ( coughing and etc.,) yet I couldn't find anything on Google.

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  • $\begingroup$ youtube.com/watch?v=I40Qr9bOLOY $\endgroup$
    – inf3rno
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ wow that's terrifying...I want to see a doctor now lol $\endgroup$
    – Freedo
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ Don't worry, this outcome is very rare. :D $\endgroup$
    – inf3rno
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ I still don't like the idea of having corn inside my lungs, and I can get quite paranoid with thinking on that lol $\endgroup$
    – Freedo
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ You mean you really inhaled corn? $\endgroup$
    – inf3rno
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 15:12

1 Answer 1

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People can drown because of aspired food. If they don't then it can cause diseases, for example pneumonia. In extreme cases a tree can grow in the lungs. There are other aspiration/inhalation related diseases like silicosis or asbestos lung cancer. So it depends on the composition of the object (or liquid or powder) and other factors whether it causes a disease or not. I did not find anything about what exactly happens with these objects in the lungs. Probably the lung tries to get rid of them mechanically, if there is no success in that, then they cause a local inflammation, which can lead to diseases if it becomes chronic and/or the object contains pathogens.

Common presenting symptoms (information available in 36 cases) included dyspnea (14), fever (9), and cough (6). A history of recurrent pneumonia was present in 9.

The annual overall inpatient cost associated with pediatric bronchial foreign-body aspiration is approximately $12.8 million. Combined, the rate of death or anoxic brain injury associated with pediatric foreign body is approximately 4%.

Gastric aspiration is a high-risk condition for lung injury. Consequences range from subclinical pneumonitis to respiratory failure, with fibrosis development in some patients. Little is known about how the lung repairs aspiration-induced injury.

Aspiration is a common but underrecognized clinicopathologic entity, with varied radiographic manifestations. Aspiration represents a spectrum of diseases, including diffuse aspiration bronchiolitis, aspiration pneumonitis, airway obstruction by foreign body, exogenous lipoid pneumonia, interstitial fibrosis, and aspiration pneumonia with or without lung abscess formation. Many patients who aspirate do not present with disease, suggesting that pathophysiology is related to a variety of factors, including decreased levels of consciousness, dysphagia, impaired mucociliary clearance, composition of aspirate, and impaired host defenses.

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