What Happens If You Eat Glass Pieces? (Symptoms & Action Steps)

Swallowing glass, whatever its size, can definitely cause damage at some level. The human digestive tract, all the way from our mouth right to our intestine, has a very delicate lining. Sharp and blunt objects can cause damage to this inner lining. If the glass piece you swallowed was tiny, then it should pass through the stool, not requiring surgery. Whereas, if the piece of glass is pretty big, then surgery might be the only option. Whatever the case, you should visit a doctor ASAP to have it checked.

So if you or your loved one has accidentally swallowed some pieces of glass and you are now worried about how to deal with such a situation, don’t panic. I’ll cover all the details that will help you find the best way to handle this situation.

Symptoms showing you swallowed glass

No one intentionally swallows glass. So, there are no particular symptoms to look for.

You may feel drooling, difficulty in swallowing, pain in the chest and neck. If the glass managed to pass through your throat down to your abdomen, then you’ll feel mild abdomen pain.

Three areas of your esophagus are more likely to get damaged if you accidentally swallowed glass, including:

  • The start of your esophagus, right where the mouth ends
  • Center of your chest
  • Point where your stomach meets the esophagus

If a sharp object like glass finds its way into the intestine, it can tear your intestinal wall, resulting in the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal bowel sounds
  • Dark stools followed by blood

Can swallowing glass splinter cause harm?

When a glass falls, it shatters into several small pieces, and this is what we call splinters.

A young woman is in noticeable pain as she's holding her chest while sitting at her office desk.

While cleaning splinters from the floor, if somehow a teeny tiny piece of splinter finds its way into your mouth, things may become slightly complicated.

If the piece is too small and is still in your mouth, the doctor will use some tools to take it out cautiously. If the piece has reached the intestine, an MRI will be carried out, and a flexible scope may be used to bring the piece out.

Why does glass pass through the esophagus?

Our esophagus is soft and small. At the same time, the walls of the esophagus are thin and pliable.

If a small object manages to pass through this thin pipe, there is a fat chance it will find its way out through your stool. Larger glass pieces that may accidentally end up in your mouth will block your esophagus, making it difficult for you to breathe.

What treatment will I get for swallowing glass?

Swallowing glass, whether small or big, isn’t something you can treat at home. Experimenting to do so will only worsen the situation.

Call 911 or head to your nearest ER (emergency room) to get it checked by a doctor, who can accurately recommend treatment based on the severity of your situation.

Firstly, the doctor will use an x-ray to determine the position of the object. Denser objects appear quickly on the x-ray. As an alternate course of action, the doctor will use an endoscope. The endoscope has a camera, light, and some equipment that can grab the stuck object from the esophagus.

There are two types of endoscope:

1. Rigid endoscope

Doctors usually use a rigid endoscope for extracting objects from the esophagus. As the first layer of the esophagus is rigid.

The rigid layer protects the soft walls of the esophagus. A rigid endoscope used along with general anesthesia is quite helpful in removing objects from the tube.

2. Flexible endoscope

A flexible endoscope is another way of removing foreign objects from the body. But dragging objects from the esophagus using a flexible endoscope may cause harm to the delicate inner walls of the esophagus. Moreover, anesthesia is not used with a flexible endoscope.

What to do if my child swallowed glass?

Children, especially toddlers ranging from 1-3 years, are always crawling around the house looking for objects to grab and put in their mouths. From small buttons to coins, toddlers will try to eat everything that comes into their contact (especially early on when they’re teething).

As a parent, you must always keep an eye on your toddlers, who recently began to crawl and are always on a stroll around the house. Secondly, look out for signs that may indicate that your child has gulped something.

If the airway gets blocked, you will see the following symptoms:

  • Choking
  • Wheezing
  • Extensive coughing
  • Breathing difficulty

Considering the object was small and is now sitting in the digestive tract, either it will somehow be excreted out of the body through the child’s stool, or the body will give you the following indications that a foreign object is stuck within the body:

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Gagging

What happens if you leave the glass piece in the body? 

This would not end up well. If the glass piece was large enough, leaving that foreign object in your body will eventually cause harm. It can lead to aspiration pneumonia, and you’ll have symptoms like fever, chest pain, wheezing, and phlegm-producing cough.

Takeaway

If you ever come into a situation like swallowing a glass piece, I would advise you to consult a doctor, even if it’s a splinter. Glass is sharp and blunt and a sure threat to your overall digestive tract. Never try to carry out a treatment on your own as it will surely make things worse. 

Moreover, if a child is present in the situation, don’t force them to vomit.

If the object has crossed the esophagus, the doctor usually advises giving lots of water and bread to the children as it will help the object leave the body through stool in the next 48-72 hours. After that, just let the doctor decide and be on the safe side.