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ant in your throat/windpipe
caramel_tea wrote in little_details
I tried different versions of "ant in body/windpipe/throat/nostrils" on google and didn't get anything.

I have a character who sleeps in a bed she doesn't know has ants crawling in it (not infested, just the occasional ant here and there). She was sleep-deprived and stressed and almost fell asleep the moment she hit the sack.

The questions: Is it possible not to feel an ant crawl up your nose or mouth while you're sleeping, especially if you're in deep sleep? Or would you wake up from that (I would imagine it feels like how an ant crawling up your arm would feel, only more irritating)? How would an ant up your throat or windpipe feel, and is it even possible for the ant to get as far as the bronchi, and if so, how would that feel? What symptoms would you have (if the ant's on the throat, maybe you'd have an irritating throat allergy-like inner itch, for example? Any chest pain?)? What would happen to you supposing the ant stays in there and you don't seek medical help (if the scenario's possible in the first place, the character doesn't know there's an ant inside her)? Let's make it crazier: if the ant died in there, what would happen?

Regarding the given fact that every person approximately swallows 5 spiders in his life, I'd carefully say that nothing'd happen. She wouldn't even realize it and the next time she swallows, consciously or not, the ant goes down the drain so to say.

Well, that's my assumption.

...clearly, the swallowing of spiders doesn't happen in Australia. Or else, mysteriously doesn't happen with the very common yet very deadly ones.

Just curious, where did you get the 'five spiders' thing from?

Edited at 2011-02-08 09:57 am (UTC)

That's one of that weird and utterly useless information that just stays stuck in my mind for some reason. So I have no idea where I got this from. Probably from some documentation on TV a few years back.

And in Germany I can imagince this pretty well. It happened more than once that I woke up at night with a spider crawling over my bed covers.

A quick googling seems to suggest to me that it's an urban legend. I just...I have shared my house with white-tails and red back spiders - both of which would kill me, or at least put me in hospital, if I were bitten - and I...really can't believe that I'd SWALLOW one, and have it not bite me.

Either prospect is yuck: whether the spider is poisonous or not. And maybe you're right and this fact is humbug one way or another. I, too, found a few conflicting opinions about it on google. I still wouldn't dismiss the possibility completely. Sure, you'd need a very deep sleep, have an open mouth and brave spiders. But since ants are even smaller than your average spider I'd still say it's possible.

(Deleted comment)
Yeah, I got it. I'll be quiet now :-D

common urban legend. A spider won't get near a sleeping human on a bet. We're big, we move, and we can squash it without even noticing.

Yeah, it'd be really hard not to swallow that ant. If your character's a light sleeper, they might wake while the ant is on their face, but other than that...

Swallowing an ant is probably not going to cause any harm. I once attended a lecture given by a representative of a drugs/poisons hotline. He told us this true story:

Caller: "My kid just ate some ants, is that bad? He's not feeling well."
Hotline person: "Well, I'm not sure. Have you done anything so far?"
Caller: "I gave him some ant poison to kill all the ants on the way down."

Swallowing ants was not a big deal. Swallowing ant poison, on the other hand...

If she slept with an open, dried-out mouth, it would be possible for the ant to get as far as the throat without her feeling it. Once there, one of two reflexes would kick in and the ant would either be swallowed or coughed out. I suppose it couldn't just run around in your throat without triggering either reflex. Once swallowed, ant meet stomach, bye-bye ant.

IF the ant got past the throat and past the larynx somehow... NONE of your internal organs after that have sensory nerves in them, which means you cannot "feel" a foreign body the same way you don't feel the food in your stomach being digested. However, any organic foreign body causes infection of the lung, which causes fever, shortness of breath etc and can be life-threatening. Google "aspirated foreign object".

The inner layer of the nose is very sensitive, and an ant crawling up there would definitely be felt and trigger sneezing. However, I suppose the ant, if small enough, could enter one of your sinuses and crawl around in there. If it died, it could cause some infection or an abscess, but it would hardly be as serious as an aspirated insect.

I also find it highly unlikely that an ant would survive inside your bronchi. Infected tissue swells up and it would eventually get stuck and die. Also, the push and pull of air inside your lungs is pretty powerful.

I think if it got into the nose, the hairs in the nose would stop it going much further, and would probably trigger sneezing (that is, after all, what they're there for!), so I'd be surprised if it could make it into the sinuses by that route.

I'm also not sure it would _automatically_ cause infection if it made it to the lungs; it wouldn't survive long, I wouldn't think, as it would get caught up in mucus fairly quickly, but this page suggests that some people who have aspirated small foreign bodies may be asymptomatic. So it could just get coughed up at some point, but without causing illness. If it blocked something, it could cause symptoms; wheezing, slight tightness of the chest, persistent cough, maybe a fever. Which gives the OP a fair amount of leeway!

I once dreamed maggots were crawling in my mouth, which woke me up, and there actually was something crawling on my lips. After freaking out, I found it was a lady bug.

I'm pretty sure the dream images were generated by the actual sensory experience. I'm extremely sensitive to insects on my skin though, I'm pretty bug phobic.

The only way i can see this actually happening is if the person has some form of Motor Neuron disorder that meant that they do not have a gag or swallow reflex in their throat or the sneeze reflex in their nose.

In my old apartment, my room had a bit of a spider problem, and my mattress was directly on the floor. I was awakened three separate times by spiders on my face--every time, I woke up because they crawled near my lips, and it tickled; I was drowsy, and attempted to brush whatever it was off my face, thinking it was just my hair, and then had a very unpleasant surprise.

So yeah, we are pretty sensitive to things brushing across areas with lots of neural sensors, like our faces. I doubt the ant would make it that far.

Um, this is horribly off-topic, but I don't suppose your icon's for sharing? I'm a bit in love with it.

Considering that I've been woken up before just by having a bug crawling on my hand, I find it hard to believe someone could sleep through having a bug crawl into their mouth or nose. Of course, ants are pretty small, so that might make a difference. My personal experience was with something bigger than an ant.

Also, I need to add, that for your character's sake, I really hope it's not a fire ant.

Ugh. That was my first thought, too.

Even if she didn't wake up fully she'd reflexively rub at her face and cough. Also the throat, sinuses and mouth are very mucous areas, and when irritated they produce even more mucus. The ant would have too much trouble getting around in there anyway even if reflexes kicked in late. If she must aspire one though, you might want to look up Aspiration Pneumonia.

There was a severe ant infestation in my house many years back, and the ants happened to make a nest under my mattress. For a couple weeks I had a few ants crawling on me every night until I figured out where they were coming from, it was awful :(

Oh forgot to add that when people are stressed they tend to have trouble sleeping, so even if she's sleep deprived she might not be able to sleep very deeply and might wake up more easily. When I am stressed at least, I have trouble falling asleep no matter how tired I am, and once I'm asleep I tend to have dreams that reflect my anxiety. So I think if she's stressed she might be even more sensitive to an ant crawling on her and like brinylon mentioned, the sensory experience would very likely affect her dream and wake her up. If she's too stressed but you want her to sleep deeply, she might want to take a sleeping aid.

I actually had something like this happen on a school trip when I was 12 - woke up on my first morning in a hostel in France to find that I was sharing my bed with a big ball of ants that seemed to have made their home down one side. They were all over me and I did have some in my mouth - they were vaguely crunchy, as I recall, and my first thought as I woke up was that I had grit in my mouth. I presumably swallowed some as well, by reflex.

They were small black garden ants of the utterly harmless variety and I didn't actually freak out at all, just sat up, spat a few out and brushed them off. The girl I was sharing the room with, however, screamed the place down, despite not having any of them anywhere near her....

I doubt that your character would get ants in the lungs while sleeping - the body does still have its various reflexes and anything in the mouth will likely be swallowed. Any damage will also be dependent on the ants involved - my little black jobs caused no damage at all but some can carry quite the bite/sting! I'd expect any damage to be to the lips/tongue, however.

This isn't exactly to your question, but people definitely have bugs crawl into their ears, and that makes them freak out. There were several discovery health channel episodes with that, including a completely catatonic guy, who they eventually realized had a bug gnawing on his eardrum. Ick!

I have a friend who had an ant crawl into his ear. He says when it got to his eardrum, it was incredibly painful and he has no memory of the time between first feeling it and standing in the bathroom pouring water into his ear to flush it out.

So I am late, but the subject tickled my fancy.

I've had ants get as far as my mouth, and I'll tell you, those little nasty things bite! They were black ants, and the bite was not especially painful, a bit like licking a 6-volt battery leads (everyone has done that, right?) but I imagine it would a) happen way before the insect got into the lungs and b) wake most people right up.



2011-05-12 06:09 am (UTC)

I was drinking a soda in my room today and I set it dwon and not even 10 minutes later picked it back up and took a drink of it and set it down and felt something in my throat and I looked back down at my soda and it had an ant crawling on it... So I went and got another soda to try and wash it down but it didn't work... I felt it crawl up my throat and it got to the back of my mouth and continued up to my nostril. It kept going up and I didn't know what to do, I felt it crawling above my nose. So I was wondering, can an ant crawl up into your head? Because I started throwing up and don't know what happened to it...


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