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Daily Q&A: Do swallowed gum and fingernails stay in your system for 7 years?

I've always been told gum and fingernails will stay in your stomach for seven years if you swallow them. What happens to gum and fingernails when you swallow them?

"Not true," says Dr. Margaret Lewin, Medical Director of Cinergy Health.

Lewin says gum and fingernails will be partially broken down by stomach acid and the rest passed out through the intestinal tract into the stool. If a sharp fingernail became stuck in the appendix on the way down, it could theoretically cause inflammation — possibly even appendicitis.

"There are very rare reports in the medical literature of children who swallowed so much gum in so short a time that the resulting masses got stuck in their intestinal tracts, causing obstruction," Lewin says.

Question for the Consumer's Edge? Send it to ipenn@sptimes.com or twitter.com/consumers_edge. Questions are answered only in this daily feature.

Daily Q&A: Do swallowed gum and fingernails stay in your system for 7 years? 02/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 10:58am]
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