Swallowing Flies When You’re Running

swallowing a fly when you're running

We’ve all been there. Running along happily, breathing through your mouth, or perhaps having a chat with a fellow runner, and wham! A disgusting flying creature decides to take a closer look at your mouth.

Think about the poor fly!

We got to talking about flies last night after a particularly warm, fly infested session, and what actually happened to the fly after it entered your body. How long would it survive? Where does it actually go. I’ve always assumed we swallowed them, but someone suggested we are inhaling them, which sounds reasonable. Sometimes it seems as if your mouth is a vacuum when you’re running and breathing hard. Watch out any suckers that get in it’s way! Must be pretty scary being sucked into a dark smelly tunnel with no chance of escape.

Inhaling or Swallowing?

I’d always assumed that when a fly went into my mouth, my epiglottis would close over my larynx (which leads to the lungs), and I’d just swallow it. It would then fly around a little bit on the way down to a painful death at the hands of the hydrochloric acid in my stomach. Serves it right, I reckon. It’s disgusting swallowing a fly!

But thinking about it a little bit more, it’s quite possible the fly is inhaled. They dart into your mouth when you are least expecting it. That means your brain doesn’t know that it should be getting the mechanisms in your mouth ready to swallow. The epiglottis will be open, allowing you to breath whilst you’re running. Closing the epiglottis and performing the action of swallowing, requires the activity of about 30 different muscles. Even though they activate in less than a second, unless your brain knows to signal to these muscles to swallow, anything that’s sucked into your mouth unexpectedly is likely to head down your larynx, at least for a short while.

Will An Inhaled Fly Go Into Your Lungs?

It’s not very likely that the fly will get very far. The far more likely scenario is that you’ll cough like crazy (in fact you might feel like you’re coughing your lungs right up). The offending fly will then be coughed into your mouth along with a bit of mucus which has entombed the fly in order to stop it from proceeding down the larynx, and then you’ll swallow it. Much the same as would happen if you had a piece of food “go down the wrong way”. Your body’s cough reflex will help you to get it out of your airways so that you can breathe freely again.

If you’re sure that the fly’s gone down your windpipe, and you don’t see it come out again when you cough, it’s much more likely that it has come out into your mouth and you’ve swallowed it. It’s not like you’re going to cough it up, open up your mouth, and see it fly away free again (only to bug the next unsuspecting runner who comes along).

How Long Will A Fly Live For Inside You?

I have no idea on this one, but I have seen someone perform a circus act where they swallowed a live gold fish, vomited it back up and it was still alive. Absolutely gross, and probably too much information, but I think it means the fly would probably live for at least a little while inside you before it died. Eventually it will go the way of all good waste products, out to Bondi, which for those of you not in the know, is where a large percentage of the sewerage generated by those living in our fine city of Sydney is treated before being dumped into the ocean.

So your fly, will eventually become a swim!!

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