Tortilla baby, you are messing with my lung feng shui!
February 3, 2011 9:00 PM   Subscribe

I was starting to get a pretty nasty cough from my SO. My tonsils are HUGE on a normal day, but when I get throat-sick, they swell up and sometimes bleed. Great! To complicate matters, I was eating the smaller bits of a bag of tortilla chips and accidentally inhale a piece or two. I nearly choked, and I could not cough up the piece(s). Now I'm having (what I think are) lung spasms every 30 secs to 5 minutes, and it's freaking me out and causing some serious pain.

Sorry for the huge summary.

The pain is kind of like a big blip in my lungs, and the pain radiates from my chest/back to my head and torso. It makes me extremely short of breath and light headed, to the point where I have to stop and brace myself. I'm pretty short of breath as it is from the cough, but it's a little different. The spasms happen with more frequency if I'm standing, and even more so if I'm walking. Riding home from work on my bike was AWFUL.

I've heard horror stories of things getting stuck in your lungs and causing pneumonia. I don't want that! I also don't want to make this into a big deal and drag my even sicker SO to the emergency room all for something silly.

Is this worthy of not worrying about? Should I call my doctor in the morning? Is this really a spasm? And, ultimately, should I actually go to the ER?

Thanks in advance!
posted by two lights above the sea to Health & Fitness (29 answers total)
Er, I was not eating THE BAG, I was eating the tortilla chips. Sorry that was worded so poorly!
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:02 PM on February 3, 2011

Any chance you could get a friend to drive you to the ER, just to make sure it isn't anything serious?
posted by biochemist at 9:03 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

How long ago did you inhale the chips?
posted by Logic Sheep at 9:06 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have tonsils swollen enough to cause you to choke, you are at risk of blocking your airway. Humans do not do well without oxygen, and that is enough to seek immediate medical attention.

Severe shortness of breath is an indicator you need to be in the ER.

Tonsils that are bleeding and swelling to the point where it causes you to choke on food are an indicator that you maybe shouldn't have those tonsils anymore.

Serious pain, shortness of breath, choking. I am not a doctor, but if I'm in your shoes, my shoes are between here and the ER.

Requisite link.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:07 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yes, thank Mister Fabulous for that link. You do not have much time to wait around for the breathing to get worse. You can live two weeks or so without food but oxygen, no, no, just minutes. GO.
posted by Anitanola at 9:11 PM on February 3, 2011

Ignore my question about how long ago you inhaled the chips. Since it was long enough for you to bike home and doesn't seem to be getting better, go to the ER. Also, don't go to sleep like this. You might not wake up.
posted by Logic Sheep at 9:14 PM on February 3, 2011

Hi, I'm a medical student. You may be obstructing your airway with the combination of your swollen tonsils and a lodged chip, or you may very well have aspirated the chip into your lungs. Neither of those things are good, particularly if you're short of breath to the point of being light-headed. Go to the ER and get it checked out. Aspiration pneumonia is just not a good idea. Ok? Take care.
posted by Drama Penguin at 9:17 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

go to the hospital or emergency room or clinic as soon as possible
posted by facetious at 9:18 PM on February 3, 2011

Buh! Sorry about the tonsil comment; I meant that only as a possible reason for why I couldn't cough it back up. I'm not sure if that's logical though. I have a headache. Sorry.

I inhaled the chips around 5 or 6 o'clock, and I noticed the pain/spasms when I was faxing something for a coworker around 8:30pm. They were particularly bad when I got until the elevator around 9pm, and riding home was pretty awful. I walked my dog and they were pretty frequent, but now that I am sitting down they are more like every 5 minutes. I feel like the headache is getting worse, though.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:22 PM on February 3, 2011

Aspiration pneumonia for reference.
posted by Drama Penguin at 9:25 PM on February 3, 2011

Why are you still here? Go to the doctor!
posted by Jubey at 9:26 PM on February 3, 2011

How long does that pneumonia take to set in? I'm sitting here with my SO who says that I have none of the symptoms, therefore it's not a problem.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:30 PM on February 3, 2011

Okay, ignore the tonsil part and consider:

You are having spasms, shortness of breath, pain in the chest area. If those are bronchospasms you are having, that's bad. Pneumonia? Bad, too. ER bad.

posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:32 PM on February 3, 2011

Is it relevant that I'm burping a lot, too?
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:34 PM on February 3, 2011

You should really head to the ER. If your primary concern is your SO and no one else can take you, maybe call a cab? It's better to be safe than sorry.
posted by biochemist at 9:36 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, but when did you SO get their medical degree? Just get yourself checked out already, ok? Better safe than sorry. Sheesh. If you wanted us to tell you you're fine and to go back to bed, it doesn't seem like you're going to get it. Mefites tell it like they see it. If we're wrong, feel free to come back and gloat - we'll be glad to hear it! But seriously, it's ER time when you can't breathe.
posted by cgg at 9:38 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Unless your SO is either a) a doctor or b) ok with you not waking up tomorrow, please override their medical opinion and GO TO THE ER.
posted by 8dot3 at 9:41 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

my SO who says that I have none of the symptoms, therefore it's not a problem.

Unless your SO is a medical professional, don't trust his/her advice. Go off of what you have happening to you right now. Are you currently having difficulty in breathing? If so, go to the ER. Are you having any more problems with choking? If so, go to the ER. Are you still having spasms in your chest that feels like your lungs which are painful? If so, go to the ER.

Pneumonia takes some time for infection to sit in, but if you really do have a piece of chip hanging out in your lungs it is not going to magically get better.

Breathing is not something to be messed with.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:41 PM on February 3, 2011

posted by herrdoktor at 9:45 PM on February 3, 2011

Wow. Leave your S.O. at home, call a cab, and go to the ER! Grown-ups are allowed to go to the ER by themselves. Sick S.O.s are allowed to stay home and sleep with their cell phones near their heads in case they're needed, which they probably won't be, as one of the wonderful things about modern medicine is how very BORING most emergencies are AS LONG AS YOU GO GET THEM TREATED BEFORE YOU'RE GUSHING BLOOD OR NOT BREATHING! Go, go, GO!

And later, have a really serious think-fest about why someone who is your S.O. is so incredibly cavalier about your health. Cheese and rice!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:50 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

(If the S.O. is your available driver, you can also have your S.O. drive and drop you and go home to sleep, and you can either call for a ride in the morning or call a cab if you're done at 3 a.m. This is why God invented cab companies, really.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:52 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Call your doctor and speak to whomever is on call. That person will give you the best advice, not us lay folks on the nets nor your SO. Granted, he is likely to tell you to meet him at the critical care department of your local hospital, but he might just tell you see if it gets any worse and call him in an hour.
posted by AugustWest at 9:59 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Check your MeMail.
posted by herrdoktor at 10:04 PM on February 3, 2011

Sorry guys. My SO has some kind of bronchial infection and is on codeine at the moment. I didn't mean to make it sound like he was being an ass. It's just that I really hate going to the hospital. I also happen to really hate dying. So was a tough decision.

I'm going to the ER.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:16 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, I did end up speaking to my doctor. Thank you, everyone. I'm sorry.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:19 PM on February 3, 2011

Esophagus spasm? Also, don't be sorry. This is (more or less) what ask mefi is for.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 10:55 PM on February 3, 2011

So, I went to the hospital, they did an EKG and a chest x-ray. Both looked fine. They gave me a Valium and this medicine that numbed my esophagus, and the numbing thing didn't help. Doc said it's likely I aspirated the chip, and told me what to look out for. She sent me home with one more Valium and orders to see my PCP in 2-3 days.

Thanks again, everyone. I love you guys.
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:05 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I got pneumonia in exactly this manner. Unfortunately, I thought it was the flu so I delayed going to the doctor for days. Also, I was a thousand miles from home in a place I barely knew anyone. I finally called a coworker and asked him to take me to the doctor. I'm pretty sure I was blubbering, I was in so much pain. We went to an urgent care place, they did a chest X-ray, gave me antibiotics and 24 hours later I was feeling pretty OK.

Anyway, if you get a fever, don't wait. That was the closest I've felt to death, and I've had multiple surgeries, head injuries, and car accidents.
posted by desjardins at 6:32 AM on February 4, 2011

You might want to see an ENT about those tonsils too. When I was a teenager, an ENT took mine out because he was afraid they'd block my airway, especially when my asthma flared up.

Trust me, adult tonsillectomy isn't fun, but it's better than not being able to breathe.
posted by kathrynm at 3:43 AM on February 5, 2011

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