I have nothing to really add. I read all the answers before writing mine. They are correct. but, no one mentioned pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection of the air sacs (alveoli) and the bronchioles. Fluid builds in the air sacs and air cannot cross over the fluid. Therefore, it is like drowning.
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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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.
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.
A little bit is like pneumonia… not good, but not fatal – usually.
A lot is called “drowning”, and is really best avoided.
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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.
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.
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Fortunately, if you talking about clean drinkable water, there is nothing to worry about. During bronchoscopy we routinely instill 90mls of saline (water with a hint of salt in it), into the lungs. In addition to that we may use a couple hundred mls to wash out copious sticky sputum. The lungs absorb what we don’t suction out.
Drowning is a different issue of course.
If you choke while drinking clean water, very little is likely to make to your lungs. Humans will cough like hell in response to just a few drops hitting the vocal cords.
Aspiration of regurgitated stomach contents, food, other particulates, etc etc., can indeed cause pneumonia.
As I’ve said before, I have a permanent tracheostomy; an artificial hole cut in my trachea under my vocal cords. This allows me to get adequate oxygen, but also lets me talk by blocking the trach tube and forcing air through the vocal cords.
Because the air bypasses the moisturizing areas of the nose and throat, my trachea/lungs can get very dry, even bleed at times. The mucus created in the bronchi gets dried out and extra thick.
To combat dryness or thin my secretions, I put 2.5 ml of sterile saline directly into my trachea. This helps moisturize by respiratory tract and protect me from infection. This is about 1/2 teaspoon of fluid. It looks and feels strange, but it works. Because it goes in below the throat, my gag reflex isn’t triggered, but it does help me cough.
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