If I swallowed a penny as a child, is it possible that it's still somewhere inside me?
January 25, 2007 8:01 PM   Subscribe

I swallowed a penny as a three-year-old but never told anyone about it.

Did it come back out? Or is it hiding somewhere in my innards?
posted by orangeshoe to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
IANAD, but I'm virtually certain it must've come out not long after you swallowed it. It's small, thin, and round, so it's not likely to have gotten stuck anywhere inside you. I'm sure it exited your other end in the same manner as everything else you eat that you can't digest.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:07 PM on January 25, 2007

I'm guessing it came out. That's how the digestive system works.

...unless there's a biological clause that states that people who eat things secretly have to keep them inside their bodies forever.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:09 PM on January 25, 2007 [3 favorites]

Yes, secretly came out in your poop while you weren't picking it apart. Sorry.
posted by gramcracker at 8:13 PM on January 25, 2007

It could be stuck in your appendix...couldn't it?
posted by bingo at 8:22 PM on January 25, 2007

My sister swallowed a penny when she was young. (It was a big production, there were EMTs and everything.) It came out, though for some reason my parents had to check her poop to make sure (presumably not one of the best parts of being a parent).
posted by advil at 8:25 PM on January 25, 2007

Yeah, whole new meaning to ass-penny.

When I was a teen, I accidentally swallowed an English Penny doing a magic trick. It was the size of a half dollar. I induced vomiting, and only succeeded in puking up everything but the English Penny. I carefully watched my, um, exit strategy for days after. Nothing. I don't know if it eventually came out, or what. But I recently had lower back x-rays, and nothing foreign showed up. So, I guess wait 30 years, like me, then have xrays.
posted by The Deej at 8:29 PM on January 25, 2007

I think I remember swallowing a few quarters as a youngster. I remember my parents... looking for them. Can't remember if they ever found them.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:31 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

So now we know that pennies last longer in your digestive tract than your average teenager's enthusiasm for scrutinizing his own feces.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:32 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yep. Poop-diving loses its appeal almost immediately.
posted by The Deej at 8:33 PM on January 25, 2007

It could be stuck in your appendix...couldn't it?

No. The penny takes the same route as anything else you eat, and your appendix does not fill with chyme, so it's pretty safe to say that the penny did not find a way in either.
posted by mendel at 8:48 PM on January 25, 2007

My sister swallowed a quarter in order to keep it from my other sister. My (unhappy) parents had to keep...looking for them. Probably in the same manner that ThePinkSuperhero's parents did. The quarter was eventually found after 2-3 WEEKS.

My father got even by keeping the quarter, framing it on a velvet background and presenting it back to my sister on her wedding day. My other sister was no longer interested in that specific quarter.
posted by jeanmari at 9:35 PM on January 25, 2007 [4 favorites]

Augh. Not "them". "It". They were looking for it.
posted by jeanmari at 9:35 PM on January 25, 2007

Stomach acid is pretty damn strong, no? Could it dissolve a penny before it left the body?
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:50 PM on January 25, 2007

What a great story jeanmari - if I'm ever fortunate enough to have kids, I'm going to preserve those "artifacts" as well. How did your sister react?

About the post: Would there be a difference between a full copper penny and the new, copper plated zinc variety? Would one or the other be more easily dissolved by stomach acids?
posted by aladfar at 9:50 PM on January 25, 2007

I swallowed a screw at that age. It came out the other end. Intact. (My parents, being very weird people, saved it to show off to generations of little NakedCodeMonkeys to come.)

Just sayin'.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:15 PM on January 25, 2007

I swallowed a penny. I pooped it out. My parents found it.

This all happened when I was a little kid, btw.

I think that's pretty much the way it goes down when you eat coins.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:30 PM on January 25, 2007

Your appendix is too small/narrow to fit a penny. But boy would that be a case report--penny causing appendicitis!
posted by gramcracker at 10:44 PM on January 25, 2007

Clearly these parents aren't on AnskMeFi. Why the hell do they keep checking the poop!? I really don't understand. Is there a possibility it could get stuck? I mean, if it's so certainly coming out, aren't they being a little... anal?

*kills self with joke*

But seriously, I can't help but think of the parents sitting around like little kids, checking to see if Santa's brought the presents early--just this once.
posted by conch soup at 11:19 PM on January 25, 2007

I ate a dime. It came out no problem. I know lots of other kids who ate coins too. No issues.

You're good to go.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 11:20 PM on January 25, 2007

Metafilter: Poop-diving loses its appeal almost immediately.
posted by stovenator at 11:35 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I ate a penny as a kid, and yup the parents tediously found it.

conch soup - yes, the concern is that the penny somehow doesn't come out, but in not checking you don't notice this, so the foreign object may start causing damage at some time. And no, it's really not the world's best job, but parenting comes with its share of ups and downs.
posted by Meagan at 2:53 AM on January 26, 2007

ooooooh, this gives me a chance to dredge up this favourite!! (specifically the Colonic Irrigation link)
posted by smcniven at 3:30 AM on January 26, 2007

As a note for current or future parents who have to go through this ordeal (I haven't yet, fortunately), Dave Barry suggests making careful use of your freezer.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 3:34 AM on January 26, 2007

Did you swallow the penny before or after 1982? Have you ever had trouble with stomach ulcers?

The biggest risk in swallowing a coin is that you might choke or do damage to your esophagus, which is the narrowest part of the route between your mouth and the toilet. If it gets through there without trouble, you should just have to wait a few days to squeeze it out. (True fact: I ate a quarter and got two dimes and a nickel back.) Google something like child swallows coin for various useful results.

CHILDREN who swallow American one-cent coins can suffer serious stomach ulcers, claim doctors at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Sara O'Hara and her colleagues discovered the problem when treating a two-year-old boy for an upset stomach. X-rays showed a metal disc full of holes. When the doctors removed it from the boy's stomach they found it was a 1989 coin he had swallowed four days earlier.

Most coins are made from copper or nickel, or mixtures of the two. But in 1982, the US replaced its 95 per cent copper one-cent coins with zinc coins coated with copper. While stomach acid causes little damage to copper and nickel coins, O'Hara's says that in her tests it corroded holes through the copper-plated zinc coins in two days. [...]
It's not likely to happen, but apparently it's possible.
posted by pracowity at 3:43 AM on January 26, 2007

Yeah, zinc reacts with hydrochloric acid pretty rapidly, while copper doesn't really react with it at all. In fact, it's a pretty standard lower-level chemistry lab for the kids to put pre- and post-1982 pennies in an acid bath and observe the difference. With a little luck, you can end up with some nifty hollow pennies.
posted by solotoro at 5:24 AM on January 26, 2007

It might stick around. Jerry Garcia's autopsy (here reennacted with a doll for the squeamish) revealed a key, (in there since around 1977), bottle cap, pipe screen and a mascara brush.
posted by substrate at 5:31 AM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm never having children.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:07 AM on January 26, 2007

The nurse in my grade school, who had been a nurse in Great Britain during WWII, told some great stories. She recounted having to take care of a boy who had swallowed a razor blade. They fed him a sandwhich with cotton in it. The razor came out the other end swaddled in cotton.
posted by plinth at 6:22 AM on January 26, 2007

I'm never having an autopsy.
posted by staggernation at 6:59 AM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

son: mom, I swallowed a penny.
mom: you are going to the doctor.
one week later, after an x-ray that for some reason scared the son
son: dad, I swallowed a nickel.
me: don't tell your mother.
posted by caddis at 7:43 AM on January 26, 2007

A kid in my fourth grade class swallowed a nickel during quiet reading time, and then brought in the recovered coin for show-and-tell. He was teased mercilessly for years to come.
posted by twoporedomain at 8:04 AM on January 26, 2007


I don't see why the coin should necessarily pass, nor do any real harm.
posted by Rumple at 9:20 AM on January 26, 2007

Important safety tip: swallowing all-copper pennies, as they were prior to 1982, wasn't a big deal.* Pennies became mostly zinc with thin copper plating in 1982. Swallowing one of those can be a big deal.
When a child swallows a penny, it can react with stomach acid to create a toxic mixture as corrosive as car battery acid, leading to severe stomach inflammation and even ulcers, physicians at Duke University Medical Center have discovered.
* Pedants may feel free to detail the specific exceptions to pennies being all-copper prior to 1982.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:45 AM on January 26, 2007

the steel penny shouldn't pose any problem either, but those are rare enough these days that you really shouldn't let toddlers play with them
posted by caddis at 10:01 AM on January 26, 2007

Read this blog post - she found a button that she didn't even know her kid swallowed.

posted by chickaboo at 10:20 AM on January 26, 2007

Wow. I certainly did not expect the amount of responses I received.

All I care about is that the penny either came out or, if it did not, that it is not spawning some horrible latent disease that I won't discover for years.

The "I never told anyone about it" part was simply a product of being a child and being scared after it happened, because I thought I did something horribly wrong. I just remembered it the other day and worried about it like only an adult would.

As an aside, I also think I was electrocuted as a child while trying to plug in a radio after having taken a bath. That scared the sh!t out of me, and I never told anyone about that either.
posted by orangeshoe at 5:39 PM on January 26, 2007

IAAD and I think I would go and get a plain abdominal x-ray done, just to check it out, not because there's any health risk. If no penny is seen you'll have peace of mind, and if a penny is seen, you'll have an awesome x-ray, and a great story to scare the grandkids with.
posted by roofus at 4:00 AM on January 28, 2007

My Mom was an x-ray tech, and she had a collection of "foreign bodies" x-rays that she had taken and made copies of (which, now that I think about it, must have violated some sort of privacy rules or something). There was one particular winner with lots of safety pins, some open. She told us (her amazed and horrified daughters) that coins generally pass through the system easily though.
posted by nekton at 7:43 AM on January 28, 2007

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