What happens when water goes in your lungs?

  • It depends on how much and for how long. more than about 300ml for more than about 5 minutes will probably kill you. Less, and you still might die from inflammation set up by the fluid in lung chambers not built to handle it. That’s called aspiration pneumonitis. Very small amounts of fluids are aspirated frequently, we just cough it up. Sometimes we get pneumonia if that happens too often from the bacteria we aspirate.

    You’d cough it up again.

    In any case, since out lungs have a surface area as big as a tennis court, if you managed to inhale 150ml of water — a large wineglass full — that would form a layer of water just two thousandths of a millimeter thick if it was spread out evenly. The layer of moisture in our lungs, preventing them from drying out, is already about that thick anyway.

    You wouldn’t notice anything.

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    If water goes into the lungs, the person will have a hard time breathing (dyspnea) because there is a disruption in the normal lung pressure with the presence of liquid. Usually patients undergo a simple procedure (thoracentesis) to remove the fluid in the lungs. When there is no more presence of fluid, full lung expansion is achieved and normal breathing will come back.

    It depends on how much water we are talking about.

    Our lungs are moist and are lined with a thin layer of fluid. Our breath has water vapor too. You can test this by breathing onto a cold glass surface and watch it mist up. So, that’s perfectly normal and necessary for healthy functioning of the lungs.

    If a small quantity of water enters lungs, say water going down the windpipe instead of the food-pipe, it would make you cough violently but is otherwise pretty harmless. Apart from it teaching you to not talk while swallowing your food, life would go about normally.

    If a large quantity of water enters lungs, it can greatly jeopardize ventilation. This happens when someone drowns or aspirates large amounts of fluids, for example, hurling in an intoxicated state and the vomit entering lungs. It is unnecessary to mention that events like these can be fatal.

    Water can also accumulate in the space between the chest wall and the lungs — called the pleural space. This condition is known to the layman as ‘water in lungs,’ although the water isn’t technically in the lungs but outside, and to the medical staff as ‘pleural effusion.’

    Again, depending on the quantity of the accumulated fluid, the condition may be completely asymptomatic or may cause the lungs to collapse needing hospitalization.

    A chest tube would usually be inserted between ribs into the pleural space to drain the fluid and allow the lungs to re-inflate to the functional state.

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    You cough until it comes out, or you may need a simple surgery to get the fluid out. Of course, excess fluid is lethal.

    But more commonly, I think you may be referring to water (and food) getting into your lungs.

    Our epiglottis keeps water and food out of the airway.

    When we eat, the epiglottis located in the throat closes. Then reopens to allow the air to get into our lungs.

    At times, we “inhale” food or water.

    I’ve done this many times, so I’m an expert in this experiential knowing. It always happened when I talked and ate at the same time. More specifically, it happened just after I talked, and I was inhaling for some air—and at the same time, food was going down the throat. Food and air both are on their to my lungs.

    I violently cough, and cough, and in time, they are expelled out, and I continue talking and eating.

    My parents often couldn’t believe I kept repeating this.

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    Q:How does it feel when water enters your lungs?

    A: When I was small, my grandfather decided that I needed to learn how to swim the same way he learned. He threw me into the deep end of the pool. He pushed me down, under the water. I panicked. I fought him. He pushed me down further under the water. I fought him more. Perhaps to him it was a game. To me, it was attempted murder.

    To this day, I remember what I saw and how it felt.

    The blue of the water, the white wall of the pool and the bubbles as they left my mouth. Each image is indelibly burned into my brain.

    I was breathing fire. It was molten lava in my throat and in my chest. My chest filled with that molten lava, burning.

    I don’t have an emotion to describe how I felt. I fought him. I clawed at him. I pushed myself away and found the wall. I clawed my way up. I think I followed the bubbles. I must have as I did not know which way was up anymore.

    When I got out of the water, my hands were bloody from clawing the pool wall. My lungs were still on fire. I coughed for what seemed an eternity. Each cough was worse than the one before.

    To this day, I can’t horse-around at a pool. If someone tries to pick me up and throw me in, I black out and turn into a raging beast. The last time someone tried to throw me in, I ended up hurting him very badly. I came to my senses as everyone was yelling at me and pulling me off of him. I felt very sorry for him, but I did warn him to leave me alone. He ignored my request and thought that I was joking around. I told him he needed to learn that NO means NO and to respect people. Of course everyone else thought I was a b*tch.

    If our lungs or alveoli fill up with the fluid then it causes a medical condition called as Pulmonary Edema. This condition cause problem with the exchange of gas which results in breathing problem and poor oxygen in the blood.

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    A little bit is like pneumonia… not good, but not fatal – usually.

    A lot is called “drowning”, and is really best avoided.

    1. You cough.
    2. Eventually, if it remains there, you could get an infection (pneumonia).
    3. If a lot of water gets in, you could drown.

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