About Herringbone in the Throat

When eating fish, there is sometimes the risk of accidentally swallowing a bone. In some cases the fish bone gets stuck in the throat.

What does a fishbone in the throat mean?

According to PSYKNOWHOW.COM,bones are bony skeletal parts of bony fish. These include connective tissue ossifications, fin rays or ribs. Before consuming any food fish, it is usually a practice to remove the bones. Nevertheless, it happens now and then that a fishbone is overlooked and swallowed while eating.

This can cause the fishbone to get stuck in the throat or esophagus and cause discomfort. Due to its pointed shape, there is also the risk that the bone could get caught in the windpipe and even cause the affected person to suffocate. However, this is extremely rare.

Ear, nose and throat specialists believe that choking from a fishbone in the throat is very unlikely and see no reason to panic. Experienced ENT doctors can easily remove bones from the throat or esophagus using special pliers or tweezers.


A bone gets stuck in the throat when eating fish dishes. Despite the removal of the herringbones, it is possible that individual specimens are overlooked and, if swallowed, get into the throat or esophagus and get stuck there. As a rule, this does not pose a major problem for the human body.

So the bone slides along with the rest of the chyme over the esophagus in the direction of the stomach. The hydrochloric acid in the stomach then loosens the herringbone lime, which in turn softens the bones. As with meat, the fish bones are then digested further.

However, it is uncomfortable if the bone is stuck in the mucous membrane of the throat and scratches it with its tip. In some cases there is also a risk of complications such as shortness of breath or bleeding.

Symptoms, ailments & signs

If a foreign body such as a fish bone gets caught in the human windpipe, the person concerned reacts with violent coughing. This is a protective device through which a foreign body that has entered is normally quickly removed from the windpipe. Often the patient perceives a sound when coughing while breathing.

Even if the esophagus is impaired, a strong coughing attack sets in. Some people who have swallowed a fishbone have difficulty swallowing or a lump in their throat. Sometimes severe pain can occur in the neck region. The pain is caused by the fact that the bone, which is structured like a bone, bores into the lining of the throat.

If the bone penetrates the epiglottis, which has the task of sealing the windpipe, there is a risk of breathing difficulties. This can be caused by the swelling of the affected part of the throat. In some people, inflammation at the puncture site is also possible, which sometimes takes on larger proportions. Although such complications are extremely rare, they cannot be completely ruled out.


Even after a fishbone gets stuck in the neck, there is usually no greater danger. The bone tip is broken down by the mucous membrane cells. This process in turn leads to the breaking off of the remaining fish bone.

For some people, however, a visit to a doctor may be necessary if there is a major injury or an inflammation in the throat. A medical check-up should also be carried out on people in need of care who lack the strength to cough up. While 80 to 90 percent of all affected people get the fishbone out of the body naturally, 10 to 20 percent require medical treatment.

At the beginning of the examination, the doctor looks at the patient’s physical condition and checks the possibility of complications. If the bone is still in the throat, the person affected sometimes suffers from pain, difficulty swallowing or abnormal sensations. Swelling on the neck is a concern.

An X-ray examination does not make sense in the case of a swallowed fishbone because it cannot be seen on the image. Instead, computed tomography (CT) can be performed, which can be used to localize the foreign body.

The course of a fishbone stuck in the throat is usually positive. The bony fish component is either broken down naturally from the body or removed by a doctor with special instruments. Dangerous complications only occur in very few patients.


A fishbone in your throat can be uncomfortable. The stuck bone can in the worst case cause bleeding or lead to an inflammation in the throat. A panic attack in the patient can cause breathing problems. However, it is extremely rare for patients to choke on a fishbone.

Small bones can often be removed with a piece of bread that has been chewed and swallowed. The person’s body tries to remove the fishbone through the mouth by coughing. A doctor should be consulted if there are complications from larger fishbones in the throat. This removes the stuck fish bones with suitable equipment.

The fishbone stuck in the mucous membrane of the throat can, in the worst case, cause a minor injury. In and of themselves, these heal themselves. However, a fishbone still stuck in the throat can lead to pain and difficulty swallowing. If the fishbone penetrates the larynx, it can cause shortness of breath.

Local inflammatory reactions and swelling in the throat can also occur. Such complications are rare, however, because larger fish bones are usually removed by the cook, or at the latest by the eater, usually before a fish dish is eaten. Medical treatment is only necessary for around ten percent of people who have a fishbone stuck in their throat.

When should you go to the doctor?

If you have a fishbone in your throat, you don’t always need to see a doctor. If the person concerned can remove the bone from the throat by coughing heavily, no treatment is necessary. Rinsing with water can also help. A doctor should be consulted about the fish bone in the throat if the person concerned cannot remove the bone after a long cough or if the person loses consciousness and has difficulty breathing.

The emergency doctor should then be called or a hospital should be visited directly. If the person concerned has lost consciousness, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can also be used. A visit to the doctor may also be necessary if the person has inflammation or swelling of the neck after removal.

This can lead to a severe sore throat or difficulty swallowing. In most cases, the course of the disease is positive. If swallowed, however, immediate action is necessary, as a fishbone in the throat can, in the worst case, lead to the death of the patient.

Treatment & Therapy

Ingestion of a fishbone does not usually require major therapy. In order to keep the bones sliding further, it is recommended to drink plenty of fluids. However, acidic drinks or foods make no sense.

Although these should be able to dissolve the fish bones, they are not acidic enough for this purpose. Treatment by a doctor must take place if the patient suffers from an injury or inflammation in the throat. The first point of contact can be your family doctor, who pulls out the bone with tweezers.

However, a visit to a specialized ear, nose and throat doctor is considered more sensible. This has instruments that are suitable for removing herringbones. In addition, he sometimes numbs the patient’s throat region with a local or general anesthetic in order to suppress strong gagging stimuli.

Outlook & forecast

A fishbone in the throat is a frightening condition, but in most cases it is harmless. Fish bones are usually so fine and thin that they dissolve by themselves over time and the uncomfortable feeling in the throat disappears. This takes a few hours to a full day.

If you don’t want to wait for it, you can try drinking a glass of water and eating a few slices of toast in the meantime. The swallowing movements of the esophagus as well as the food and liquid could cause a fishbone in the throat to loosen on its own. At the latest, the stomach acid is aggressive enough to dissolve it in the stomach within a very short time.

If necessary, the family doctor can be visited. This should be consulted at the latest when the fishbone causes pain, can still be clearly felt after a day or the patient can no longer swallow properly because of it. In rare cases, a fishbone actually sits so unfavorably in the esophagus that it leads to serious swallowing difficulties or even injuries. If it seriously impedes food intake or has left injuries, there is the option of surgically removing it so that the patient can continue to eat and drink as usual.


There is no special prevention against a fishbone in the throat. So this can be overlooked despite all precautionary measures when eating.


A fishbone in the throat can be uncomfortable, which is why it should be removed quickly. Usually the pain should stop after removing the fishbone from the neck, but it can last for days to weeks. Care should also be taken to ensure that the entire bone has been removed and that no residues have remained in the neck.

If the pain persists, the patient should go to the doctor again. The pain could then be controlled with analgesics such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. The wound can also become infected with bacteria. In order to prevent infection because of this, prophylaxis with antibiotics can be useful, especially in immunocompromised people.

If an infection has already developed, antibiotics should be given. If necessary, the infection can spread further and an abscess can form. This should first be treated surgically and then also given antibiotic prophylaxis.

The patient should also be advised to avoid eating bones or other irritating foods in the near future so that the inflammation caused by the bones can subside. If an infection has developed, the patient should return to the doctor for a check-up after the antibiotic therapy.

You can do that yourself

If a fishbone is accidentally swallowed while eating, there is no need to panic. Even if it gets stuck in the throat, the person affected can usually solve the problem himself.

Eating bread and drinking water helps in many cases. Due to the pressure that occurs and the consistency of the bread, a fishbone can often be removed before it causes damage. The affected person achieves a similar effect with marshmallows.

If there are no noteworthy complaints, you should wait a little. The cells of the esophagus quickly begin to break down the fishbone, which is why in most cases it migrates to the stomach on its own and is then dissolved.

At the beginning you can also cough to provoke the bones to be removed. If the bone is also high up in the throat or in the epiglottis, you can try to remove it with tweezers.

In no case should you attempt to move the bone by rubbing or squeezing the neck. This can lead to a deeper setting. Eating or drinking sour things is also not helpful. A sufficiently acidic substance to dissolve a fishbone would attack the tissues of the neck.

Children should also be reassured, as swallowing a bone often causes panic. Only when there is a shortage of breath or the bone has not hiked after a while, the possibilities for self-help have been exhausted and the emergency doctor should be informed immediately.

Herringbone in the Throat