What Happens If I Swallowed A Chicken Bone? (Risk Factors and Treatment)

If you swallowed a sharp and long chicken bone, it could be dangerous as it may cause internal complications in your gastrointestinal tract. A sharp foreign object may puncture the linings of your esophagus down to your intestinal wall or cause blockage in your rectal area. If the doctor finds out about these after an examination, they will require you for foreign body removal. However, there is no need to panic if you unintentionally swallowed a tiny bit of chicken bone as it will just pass through the digestive tract without a problem. In case it gets stuck in your throat, you may drink big gulps of water or swallow a huge bite of a banana to push it down to your stomach.

There is no denying that everybody loves chicken regardless of age and race. We see it cooked in many different ways and recipes that reflect tradition and culture. Chicken meat is a healthy source of protein and other essential vitamins that our body needs. That’s probably the reason why our mom loves to serve it at our dinner table. It’s also a cheaper and healthier alternative to pork or beef.  

However, it may happen that you will swallow a part of a chicken bone while eating. I can imagine how that tiny piece could ruin your fantastic mealtime. Does this mean a call for an ambulance or not? 

What to do when you swallowed a chicken bone

If you accidentally swallowed a chicken bone, it might get stuck in your throat and cause irritation and discomfort. You can try to dislodge the bone by doing these simple tricks at home.

One quick thing, please don’t do anything if you feel like you swallowed a long and sharp bone. If this is the case, get medical attention immediately. 

  • Drink big gulps of water – This may help loosen the bone.
  • Drink sodas – Sodas will cause the stomach to release gas then, its pressure will help loosen up the bone.
  • Swallow your saliva – This may lubricate the area of your throat and help push the bone down. 
  • Have a big bite of banana – Bananas will stick to the bone and push it down as you swallow it.
  • Wait it out – If the bone isn’t that sharp and long, it will pass through your digestive system just fine.

If the bone happens to pass through your esophagus without getting stuck and you are feeling no distress onwards, it will be digested and/or show up in your stool.  

When should I see a doctor?

In most cases, when a person accidentally swallows something other than food, it will naturally pass through the digestive system and then eliminate it as unwanted waste.

A long and sharp-pointed chicken bone is dangerous as it may inflict severe complications in our gastrointestinal tract. If you have these symptoms, please seek emergency help immediately; 

  • Severe abdominal pain and vomiting – These may show the signs of perforation or a puncture caused by the sharp edge of the bone on your abdominal wall or linings in your stomach area.
  • Indigestion and/or constipation – This could be a gastrointestinal impaction caused by a bone fragment blocking or impacting your bowel movement.
  • Severe Anal pain – The bone may have lodged in your anal canal or rectal wall.
  • Abdominal swelling and/or bloating – This could be due to a blockage in your intestinal area caused by the bone fragment.

Complications caused by an ingested foreign material like bones from pork, chicken, fish, and things like a denture, glass shard, coins, etc., often present different symptoms.

Patients usually show signs of severe abdominal pain, high fever, and swelling of their abdomen when the ingested foreign material is already obstructing their digestive tract. 

If you experience these types of symptoms and you suspect to have swallowed a sharp bone after having a chicken dish for a meal, please seek medical help immediately. 

What treatments would I get?

There are different medical methods that a doctor may perform on you in removing a foreign body from your digestive tract. One is through surgical operations, and the other is through non-operative methods. 

You may undergo several tests through an X-ray examination, ultrasound, or CT scan. This will help doctors see the problems incurred by the foreign body that has entered your digestive tract and make a diagnosis.

The severity and location of the foreign body will determine what method they should perform on you. 

1. Endoscopic Foreign Body Removal 

A doctor will perform an upper endoscopy, also known as esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), which is a non-operative method of removing foreign items in your digestive tract. 

An endoscope will be used for this procedure. It is a long and flexible tube with a lighted camera that enables doctors to examine the lining of your esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine.

Doctors will insert instruments through the channels of the scope and remove the object that got stuck. 

2. Sigmoidoscopy

If the foreign body has entered your rectum and colon, a doctor may extract it using a sigmoidoscopy.

It is a 20-cm long and flexible endoscope with channels used to insert instruments such as biopsy forceps and snares used to clamp and remove the foreign item.

3. Laparoscopy

Doctors will require this procedure if an attempt of endoscopic or non-operative foreign body removal fails. Laparoscopy is a low-risk and less invasive surgical method that allows doctors to remove large and sharp objects that have entered the abdominal area without majorly cutting through your stomach. 

Reasons for accidentally swallowing a chicken bone 

Swallowing a chicken bone may happen by accident or due to external factors. Below are some of the most common reasons why you may happen to ingest a chicken bone; 

  • Wearing dentures
  • Mental impairment
  • Dementia
  • Influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Fast eating habits

People who wear dentures may have difficulties feeling whether they have thoroughly chewed the food or not before swallowing. 

Older people diagnosed with dementia and children or adults with mental illness are at risk of swallowing foreign objects. This is because they may lose the sensitivity of what their teeth and tongue come in contact with. That’s the main reason why they tend to accidentally swallow sharp bones while they’re eating. 

If you are a fast eater, you should think again about your habit. Most people who accidentally swallow a chicken or fishbone admit that they don’t mindfully chew their food well.

FAQs

What will happen if my dog swallowed a chicken bone?

If you find your dog eating all the chicken bone and suspect that he feels uncomfortable or experiences choking and/or vomiting, please call or send him to your veterinarian. If he devoured the bone before you could stop him and seems fine, it would probably be digested and/or released on his stool.

Please monitor him regularly. If he feels sick and not eating, you should get him help right away.

Can stomach acid dissolve chicken bones?

Not likely if the bone is sharp and solid as there is about an 80%-90% chance that it will uneventfully pass through the digestive tract.

If the bone is chewed thoroughly then, that will be easily dissolved and digested.

Will I die from swallowing a chicken bone?

No, you won’t die from swallowing a chicken bone. But you should be careful of choking hazards and get help immediately. You must visit the ER directly if severe symptoms occur.

Conclusion

Swallowed foreign objects usually pass through the digestive tract without any problem and get eliminated on your stool within 7 to 10 days. If you happen to visit your physician, they may suggest you take an X-ray and examine your stool at a specific time frame.

Doctors will recommend an endoscopic and digital foreign body removal if they found a sharp object stuck in your gastrointestinal tract that causes internal complications. Meanwhile, there is only about less than 1% when such happens to require surgery. They may also prescribe you some antibiotics and do some post-examination in your abdomen to check if any complications after the removal occur.

The best thing you can do is watchful and mindful eating to avoid instances like swallowing a chicken bone that will cause you discomfort or trouble in going to the ER.