Avatar universal

Chronic Chewing Gum Aspiration

In the summer of 2007 (roughly 3 years prior to post), I inhaled a half-piece of Extra Polar Ice chewing gum.  I was sitting in class with the gum in my mouth, and the professor made a joke, which caused me to laugh and accidentally inhale the gum.  I can remember it vividly and am 100% sure that it was inhaled, NOT swallowed.  I have swallowed gum before as a kid/teen, and this was not even close to that.  Due to my surprise and reflexes, I gasped deeply, and the gum went far down my airway, so that it was no longer 'caught in the flap' so to speak.  Being a stupid college student, I didn't seek medical attention immediately, as I was able to breathe normally at that time.

Over the course of a few months following the inhalation, I developed a bad cough that was not productive (nothing came out).  During this time, when I swallowed, I could feel a significant 'lump in my throat' and felt that something was in my upper airway.  This lasted for several weeks.

I went to urgent care, they listened to me breathe, and said that they couldn't hear anything wrong.  The doctor basically said she thought I swallowed the gum instead of inhaling it, which was extremely frustrating to me.  I requested to see a pulmonologist, and she said she had no basis to refer me to one.  I decided to find one on my own.

I went to a pulmonologist (by this time, it was ~1.5 years after inhaling the gum, and the cough and lump feeling had subsided).  He also listened to me breathe, took me seriously (which was a relief), and said that he thought that the gum must have 'worked its way out somehow'.  I know I never consciously coughed the gum out, and I doubt I could do that asleep.  At any rate, he told me not to worry, and so I put it out of my mind.

Fast forward about a year to today.  My sleep quality had been really bad and I didn't feel rested ever when I woke up.  My ability to focus was horrible, I had morning headaches all the time, and I felt like a zombie.  My PC doc recommended a sleep study, so I went for one.  The first sleep study, they determined that I should try a CPAP on account of my low SPO2 levels during sleep, so I went back for a second sleep study using a CPAP.  During the second sleep study, using several different pressure levels on the CPAP, my SPO2 levels still plateaued at 85%, which I am led to believe is very low for being on a CPAP.  Additionally, my frequency of obstructive and central sleep apneas was well within the range of 'normal'.  So, they decided to add a 2L/min oxygen bleed to the CPAP, which is what I am now using at home.  None of the doctors or technicians have been able to tell me why my oxygen levels are low even using a CPAP, and I am worried that it has to do with complications from having inhaled the gum.

Two nights ago, as I went to lie down, I noticed a 'whirring' or 'whistling' noise that occurs deep in my chest when I inhale deeply.  It only occurs when I inhale that very last little bit of air before I am 'maxed out' (say from 70% to 100% full), and it only occurs when I lie on my right side.  When I roll over to my left side, it goes away.  This makes me further worried that the gum is, indeed, still in there and is causing an obstruction.  The whirring noise is currently gone, but I made a recording of it on my mp3 player in case I need to show a doctor.  I can't get the recording off of my mp3 player, or I would have posted a link to the audio.

Basically, I don't know what to do.  The fact that my low oxygen levels can't be explained by sleep apnea or anything else I've heard, the whirring noise, the symptoms I had a while back, and the knowledge that I have inhaled a piece of gum all make me think that if I don't deal with this thing right, once and for all, I may shorten my life significantly.  Am I crazy?  What should I do?  Should I try to see a different pulmonologist or other doctor with the new SPO2 information and breathing recording?

Thank you so much for your help - this means so much to me.
4 Responses
Avatar universal
Hi, have you had any scans/x-ray done? What did they reveal? I would imagine that the gum would come up on one of those. Also, a last resort would be a bronchoscopy.  This might reveal if the gum is stuck in the airway somewhere and if found, they would be able to remove it during this procedure also. May I ask how old you are? An SPO2 of 85% is not normal on CPAP in a person with no previous or current (diagnosed) lung issues.
Avatar universal
It's a cover up.
There is no way to get the gum out short of surgery.
It will be moist and soggy and sitting in the lower part of your lung and tangled around your vocal chords.  
That is where my nicotine gum that i inhaled is sitting.
There is no way to get it out short of surgery.
Think about it.
The gum is soggy.  A hook will just slice through it.
If you are breathing okay the Doctor will just try to give you psychological assurance by telling you that you must have swallowed it.
They are liars.  
They don't go over the details with every patient who does this.
Explaining practicalities is not part of their job description.
They lie.
Sincerely yours,
Another one who inhaled gum.
Avatar universal
How do you know that it is in your lungs? Did you have any type of scan that revealed it?
Avatar universal
Hi, I am Susana. I am suffering of something similar. In October 2016 I strongly believe I inhaled a piece of chewing gum. Since then I feel a lump and a pain slightly on my right side almost above my right breast. I visited the Dr, had X-ray, CT scan, barrow swallow, endoscopy and they find nothing. I can't sleep well and I feel a tightness on my chest, can't sleep properly. I have begging Dr to send me to a pulmonologist. Also ocassionally feel a tingling sensation on my back around my right lung area. I can't do cardio activities because I get out of breath. Soon will have a Routine Lung Function (Spirometry, Lung Volums, DLCO). I am so desperate, would like to know how you are going. Please mail me to ***@**** to see how you are going and if finally drs found something and I could use your case as a reference when I see my Dr.
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