What Happens if we Swallow Hair by Mistake?

Hair eat cover

The age-old question, well, not that old but ever since I was a child I had this idea that if I swallow a hair it will stay inside my stomach forever and will cause so much damage. But in reality, is it that bad? I mean whenever we are at a restaurant and we happen to find a hair in our food, of course, we send it back but we call it a health hazard, so it should be pretty dangerous right?

What exactly happens when we ingest hair?

Hair eat burger

A girl consuming a burger with potential hair in it.

So first thing’s first, we cannot digest hair. Our bodies are just not designed to digest such substances and that’s the reason why hair even sticks out so much in your mouth and our tongue can tell it apart from the rest of the food quite easily. Let’s say somehow you happen to swallow hair by mistake now what?

Don’t panic, as a single strand of hair is not a threat to your health and sooner or later it will be passed through your body along with the rest of the waste. But the problem arises if you happen to swallow a huge amount of hair, however, I don’t know how one can ingest such amounts of hair on accident. Some people suffer from a psychological disorder called, Trichophagia where they start to eat their own hair, this on the other hand can cause many health issues.

Hair eat disorder

A girl thinking of eating her hair.

When huge amounts of hair are ingested it can result in clumping of the hair within the body and results in hairballs. These hairballs lead to intense pain in the abdomen and can cause indigestion issues, this condition is known as Trichobezoars. As hair isn’t digested by our body it stays inside of the stomach and is removed slowly with each excretion, but this is a slow and painful process. You must have noticed cats constantly clean themselves by licking themselves and in this process, they swallow a lot of hair as well. But unlike cats, we don’t have the capabilities to cough the hairballs out and hair just stays within our stomach. There are medicines available that help with the purging of hair from the system.

Even though medication can help purge the hairballs, in severe cases surgery is required to remove the hairballs from the stomach. If hair isn’t removed from the stomach for a prolonged period of time it can lead to other health complications such as gastric mucosal erosion, where damage to the lining of the stomach is caused and bleeding can occur, and gastric outlet obstruction in which outlet of the stomach is blocked, by hairballs in this situation. In extreme cases, it can also cause excruciating pain followed by death.

Overall, it is safe to say that if you ingest a single strand of hair you’d be fine. However, if you happen to have a habit of ingesting hair or know someone who does and isn’t able to stop. It might be a good idea to visit a doctor to get treated as we know it can cause many issues.

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