Crème de glace. Um, crème de GLASS. Tell me I'll be alright?
July 23, 2011 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Will I be okay? I ate broken glass tonight. Finely-crushed small particles. Not on purpose -- I'm not a circus geek. Broken glass is one of a very few things that freak me out. Will I be okay? Sure, probably, but I'm freaked out.

I had dinner with a few friends, one of whom makes homemade coconut-milk ice cream. Another friend was talking about how he had dropped a glass container of this fellow's ice cream, then ate the ice cream from the center where the glass shards would be unlikely to reside. So we had some ice cream after dinner, and of course I'm thinking there's no way it could be the same ice cream. I mean, what kind of dumbasses eat ice cream that might have broken glass in it? My dumbass friends, evidently.

The first few spoonfuls were fine, but then I noticed something slightly crunchy, like a few grains of sand, but I figured it was frozen cherries. Then I found two pieces of glass with my tongue, both about 1/4" long and wicked sharp. And I stopped eating, but then found a tiny fragment between my teeth, meaning the original crunchy stuff was probably glass.

I feel okay, but the back of my throat feels the way it does when I have a hair stuck there.

The ice cream was delish, by the way. Earl Grey with cherries and glass.
posted by Shane to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The CORE web site offers the following:
"... Glass, especially small fragments of the sort of glass that is used in bottling, is not seen easily on X-ray. Treatment is usually conservative, that is 'wait and see', unless there is any indication of an unusual complication."
posted by paulsc at 6:04 PM on July 23, 2011

Oh my gosh, this sounds horrifying. There was an Alfred Hitchcock Presents about a guy who mixed ground glass into someone's food in order to kill him (and it worked). ...But that's just TV, right?

Do you have health insurance? You should call the nurse-on-call (the number should be on the back of your card) pronto and ask if you need to go to an emergency room. (I doubt it though; you're probably fine.)

I would treat this like getting a potato chip fragment stuck in your throat, and eat things like doughy bread and leafy greens to move everything down.
posted by phunniemee at 6:06 PM on July 23, 2011

"Treatment is usually conservative, that is 'wait and see', unless there is any indication of an unusual complication."

I've been down this road before. Basically if you start crapping blood, well, that's when you call your doctor.
posted by lobbyist at 6:11 PM on July 23, 2011

IANAD, but suddenly black and "tarry" consistency stool is also an indication of significant bleeding in the stomach or upper bowel.
posted by paulsc at 6:13 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

I feel okay, but the back of my throat feels the way it does when I have a hair stuck there.

I'd personally be concerned about infection, not necessarily from cuts but from your body going "whoa, foreign object, wtf." If you get a fever or you have trouble breathing, I'd go to the urgent care. IANAD.
posted by desjardins at 6:13 PM on July 23, 2011

The sentence directly before the one quoted above (on the CORE website) says, "Anyone who believes that he or she may have swallowed glass should contact their doctor or the local Accident and Emergency Department." I think seeing the two sentences together, the message is to call the doctor but don't worry.

I'd send the bill to the friend that served you glass.
posted by Houstonian at 6:15 PM on July 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I apologize for not using more google-fu and for posting a question that might be more of a call for reassurance. I understand if the current sheriff deletes this. There's probably little I can do, I feel physically okay, any glass that went down was probably well-chewed and so mostly blunted, and I'm just a bit freaked. I think I'll see if I still have some milk thistle (plant fiber) capsules in the cupboard, then have a short lie down.
posted by Shane at 6:19 PM on July 23, 2011

Cross-posting back from MetaChat in case the question stays up and it is useful for someone else in the future:

Yikes, Shane, sorry to hear this. It is probably worth calling a nurse line or such and getting their opinion on whether there is anything you can do.

When I ate glass, it was mixed in with rice (at a restaurant). We went to the emergency room, where I was a pretty low priority for them. When I did get in, they took an x-ray to double check that it wasn't a huge piece of glass.

It didn't show up on the x-ray, so they told me to just watch for blood for the next few days but that I'd just pass it on my own. They told me that there really isn't much they can do for it (but they will go after it if it's large enough).

Wasn't a fun few days (it didn't hurt ever but it really freaked me out), and I didn't eat at the restaurant for a long time after that.the restaurant owner handled things really well given the circumstances. I think somebody in the kitchen was an idiot and broke a beer bottle at some point and didn't do a reasonable job of cleaning it up, that's my best guess anyway.

So I would probably still call someone, but if it's tiny as it sounds, you will probably just have to stress for a few days.
posted by ugf at 6:53 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I swallowed a tiny piece of glass last winter, a little shard like you describe not swallowing.

I did a lot of googling and basically came to the conclusion that the stomach and intestines are pretty tough and are designed to cope with the occasional mistaken consumption of sharps and even the occasional minor bleeding. The medical consensus seemed to be that small splinters probably wouldn't cause any problems but to keep an eye out over the next few days. Which I did, and I was fine.

Babies swallow pins from time to time, and the procedure is to watch them and try to discourage them from bending too much to avoid poking. You're a lot bigger than a baby and what you swallowed is a lot, lot smaller.

Also, I remember reading a thing (on paper) about how ground glass really isn't dangerous because it just isn't very sharp - the "ground glass is like poison!" thing is a literary convention.

I wouldn't worry too much - there's probably some small, small possibility of a bad outcome, but although IANAD it seems likely that you'll be fine.
posted by Frowner at 6:53 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

("What you swallowed is a lot, lot smaller than a pin"...although also a lot, lot smaller than a baby.)
posted by Frowner at 6:55 PM on July 23, 2011

Try calling poison control. The number is 800-222-1222.
posted by hooray at 7:37 PM on July 23, 2011

Canrnies used to swallow glass all the time. They called them "Glass Eaters." There was no trick to it -- they just ground up glass and ate it. Your body should be able to handle finely ground, small particles just fine. After all, some people ate them every night.

Like others said, keep an eye out for tarry stools, and if you see them, call somebody. Otherwise, you should be just fine. And don't take Pepto if you get am upset stomach. It will discolored your poop and make you panic.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:41 PM on July 23, 2011

When I was little, my mom made a lot of homemade jam from strawberries we picked. One day, she made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with creamy peanut butter (the only kind I'd eat), and the jelly. After the first half of the sandwich, I complained that she'd made it with crunchy peanut butter and it was so gross. And then we realized that what had happened was the lip of the jar had cracked and the crunch was actually broken glass in the jelly. I think she called poison control in a panic, but I don't think I actually had to do anything about it - I don't remember any visit to the doctor's in response to the glass eating incident.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:04 PM on July 23, 2011

I swallowed a decent-size chunk of glass from a bottle a few years ago and called the local clinic/hospital (I forget which). They told me to take a cotton ball or two, shred them into little threads, and eat them. The fibers will supposedly wrap around the glass in your stomach and help protect your intestines. This works best if you do it right after you swallowed the glass.

Obviously if you start emitting blood from any unusual orifices, call the ER, but I think you will be OK. I was.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:46 PM on July 23, 2011

My sister ate a bunch of crushed glass Christmas ornaments as a child. Despite the freakout that – as you can imagine – ensued, no intervention was necessary and she was fine.
posted by halogen at 9:42 PM on July 23, 2011

IANAD, but thinking about it, if I was in your shoes I would eat a lot of soft absorbent type of material, think oatmeal. My reasoning is the oatmeal like substance would, possibly, pick up and encase whatever fragments you have already ingested. Yeah, things get digested and broken down but more mass consumed equals the glass being a smaller percentage of what is actually passing through as part of a larger mass, and therefore (perhaps) more likely to be on the inside of the eventual fecal matter.

yeah call the poison control center.
posted by edgeways at 9:57 PM on July 23, 2011

I, too, have accidentally eaten glass and lived to tell the tale. As others have advised, keep an eye out for abdominal pain or blood in your stool, but try not to freak out too much; you'll probably be fine.
posted by hot soup girl at 10:14 PM on July 23, 2011

If it didn't cut your mouth (you felt the grittiness) then your innards are probably alright. But keep an eye out.
posted by Lady Li at 11:49 PM on July 23, 2011

Like every else is saying: you'll be fine. But you should add a canIeatthis tag to your question!
posted by SLC Mom at 12:01 AM on July 24, 2011

Response by poster: LOL, thanks for the support, info, and anecdotes, all. It's surprising how many people have had this experience.

That CORE site is great, too, paulsc. It says the innards are quite adept and prepared for this type of thing. I suppose if worst case a nasty sharp shard cuts you up on the way down, works its way into a bad place, and keeps moving, you're in trouble, but otherwise I guess if foreign matter gets stuck and can't be expelled, the bod wraps it in scar tissue and keeps it as a souvenir.

I guess I'm fine. I'll chalk it up to another life experience that should have been lyrics to a Pogues song -- "Ate broken glass in my ice cream, then had another pint..." lol.

canIeatthis tag -- done! ;-)
posted by Shane at 9:53 AM on July 24, 2011

Yeah, my brother swallowed an entire lightbulb out of a nightlight when he was a toddler. This was in the 70's and the doctor just told mom to just look for glass in his stool. He was fine.
posted by heatvision at 4:20 PM on July 24, 2011

Not to minimize (this thread made me wince in imagined agony), but carnivorous animals crunch up their prey and routinely swallow shards of bone. Early meat-eating humans (who made use of animals killed by carnivores) probably did too. It is probably less likely to kill you than you think. Nevertheless, pet owners are usually advised not to feed their dogs and cats chicken bones, which splinter easily.
posted by bad grammar at 7:04 PM on July 24, 2011

Canrnies used to swallow glass all the time.

Hell, they still do - I've got a bunch of friends in the sideshow business. Danny Borneo, for example, will chow down on a lightbulb - two shows a night, often multiple shows in a week. The insider secret? Chew thoroughly (and drink astounding amounts of Powers Whiskey, altho that might just be a personal affectation).
posted by FatherDagon at 1:57 PM on July 25, 2011

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