Picture this: you’re relaxing at the park on a warm summer’s day. The sun is glaring on your face whilst the summer breeze cools your body down. It’s the perfect setup until the unexpected happens: you accidentally swallow a bug.
There can’t be anything worse than the feeling of an insect entering your body – but is it actually dangerous?
What actually happens when you accidentally eat a bug?
Well, first of all, that bug has a small survival rate.
As for yourself, you shouldn’t worry too much. Digesting insects like spiders, mites, and ticks, and insects such as gnats, flies, mosquitoes, fleas, and bedbugs is like eating any other food, according to Bobbi Pritt, M.D., a microbiologist, pathologist, and Director of the Clinical Parasitology Laboratory at Mayo Clinic.
“Eating a bug now and then probably won’t be a problem for most,” Pritt explains.
But, if you somehow manage to swallow a bee, wasp, fire ants, or any type of caterpillar – then you might be in trouble.
“Usually eating one will just cause mild pain and localised swelling if it bites or stings you,” Dr. Pritt shares.
So when we swallow a bug, do we inhale it into our lungs?
The short answer is no. Our airway has two significant defences that help us stop this, according to BBC Science Focus magazine.
The trachea is covered with mucus that will probably trap small bugs with little hair cells that persistently move particles back up.
Also, our reflex is so sensitive that when anything touches the walls of the trachea it causes a coughing fit – and to suppress this reflex, we would have to be unconscious or drugged up.
So, if you find yourself accidentally swallowing a fly don’t panic! You’ll probably be disgusted, but it’s not the end of the world.