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What happens when you swallow phlegm?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone,

I've looked this up a few times online and cannot seem to find an informed answer.

My DD just got over a month-long virus (cough, congestion, fever) and could only swallow her phlegm. She's 2 and doesn't know how to spit it out to get rid of it.

So when you swallow it, do your stomach juices zap the virus in the phlegm, or does it just compound the problem by spreading the virus around as it moves through your intestines?

FWIW When my grandmother had a stroke and was swallowing a lot of phlegm, her nurse had me suction out the phlegm as much as I was able. But when I asked her what would happen if I couldn't suction it out, she shrugged and said "it'll go down her GI tract" like no big deal. Granny didn't have a virus, just a lot of phlegm, but maybe a concurrent infection, I can't remember as it was years ago.

Anyway that's my only recollection about this delectable subject.
post #2 of 8
I think unless you have trouble swallowing or have so much that it is choking you, it's not a big deal to swallow it. The viruses in it probably can't infect intestinal cells. And even if they did, your immune system would be on top of it right away because they have already recognized it as foreign.
post #3 of 8
post #4 of 8
Yep. No big deal.

-Angela
post #5 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by aiea View Post
FWIW When my grandmother had a stroke and was swallowing a lot of phlegm, her nurse had me suction out the phlegm as much as I was able. But when I asked her what would happen if I couldn't suction it out, she shrugged and said "it'll go down her GI tract" like no big deal. Granny didn't have a virus, just a lot of phlegm, but maybe a concurrent infection, I can't remember as it was years ago.

Anyway that's my only recollection about this delectable subject.
No, the nurse is suctioning the phlegm out of her trachea because with a stroke, her muscles are weak and she may not be able to do it herself (and she also probably has some loss of her cough reflex.) If there is no suctioning done, it's possible that the mucus will settle in her lungs and cause pneumonia.
post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kangaroomum25 View Post
That's delicious, kangaroomum25. I wonder how many people have taken that dr's advice?!

snuffles - Yes, now that I recall, that was some of the reasoning. They were worried about aspiration into the lungs.

My intuition on swallowing phlegm (and other lay people online have mentioned this) is that if you can spit out more of the little invaders, great. But I wonder if you're actually going to speed recovery by doing it...
post #7 of 8
Actually, you have special immune cells in your digestive tract that make swallowing rather than spitting better. Virus that goes into your stomach is seen by your immune system, which then mounts a response.

Besides, spitting is just disgusting and spreads disease. :vomit
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wannabe View Post
Actually, you have special immune cells in your digestive tract that make swallowing rather than spitting better.
Hi wannabe,

Is it better because you want the mucus in you? I don't understand that part. And yes, I would consider spitting gross if it were in public or put on a sidewalk or something. But into your trash bag to go out to the garbage? I always figured they'd die of exposure and I'd be lightened of a little more of the burden.
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