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It’s Ok to Brush – Just Don’t Inhale

And you can quote me: "Swallowing toothpaste is one thing. Inhaling it is another, and let me tell you that when that searing hot mint hits your delicate pulmonary tract, you experience a full minute and a half of "oh please God let me die NOW" intense pain with every attempt at breathing."

Posted in My Day, July 27th, 2006

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Who would ever have thought that a seemingly innocent thing like mint toothpaste could incapacitate someone with what can only be described as a “phasers on stun” response to being accidentally inhaled?

Well, let me tell you, don’t try this at home, kids.

When you think about the act of toothbrushing, and how often you do it (uh, hopefully), the fact that you probably don’t hold your breath when you brush your teeth (although you should if you don’t brush your teeth – at least if you are standing near me), and the proximity of all that toothpastey backwash to your epiglottis, well, it’s amazing that this doesn’t happen more often. Certainly it’s the first time that it has happened in my forty-mumbledy-some-odd years.

But there it was. I was brushing my teeth, with Crest cool-as-ice-ultra-minty gel, and somehow, a tiny bit ended up going down the wrong way.

And let me tell you – when that searing hot mint hits your delicate pulmonary tract, you experience a full minute and a half of “oh please God let me die NOW” intense pain with every attempt at breathing, every futile cough which only serves to re-sear the entire length of your trachea as you desparately claw at your throat and chest and wonder if you will ever live to see another episode of Knotts Landing.

Then for the next five minutes the coughing hurts somewhat less (only somewhat), and you have the bizarre sensation of having minty fresh breath that is minty fresh all the way from the bottom of your lungs on up.

An altogether unpleasant experience, and I think I’m switching to Tom’s of Maine orange/mango toothpaste from here on out.

Searches that led to this article: what happens if you inhale toothpaste,  inhaled toothpaste burning lungs,  my bird inhaled fumes,  

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  1. 33 years old, first time TP inhaler. Was brushing my teeth in the shower and breathed in a little too deeply. Half an hour of intense sore throat and coughing followed. Clearing up now, looking at some of the other comments here it seems like I got off pretty lightly. To all you other TP inhalers searching the internet to check you’re not dying – the pain will pass. And you are now a member of a very exclusive global club of idiots.

    Comment by Harry — January 25, 2021 @ 4:11 pm

  2. Another victim of TP inhalation just one day before 2021. Hope to be the last of this year.
    It was just a few seconds of no air but it felt like an eternity. After I breathe again, that horrible burning sensation on my throat and coughing appeared. I hope this disappears for tomorrow, cough during this year of COVID and nobody will believe that is because of something so silly. I feel stupid for almost choking with toothpaste foam. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Comment by Alvaro — December 30, 2020 @ 4:30 pm

  3. OMG I’m 34 years old and never know this stuff was so dangerous! I mean who would think of choking to death from brushing your teeth. Thought my throat was going to close on me. I was two seconds from calling poison control or Colgate or someone. Almost ran to my wife and the emergency room. The imporant thing is to breath through the nose and stay calm. Which is kind of hard to do in this situation.

    Comment by Johnathon — December 13, 2020 @ 8:53 pm

  4. Rest assured, you will get through this. We all have, but it sure feels like you could (or want to) die!

    Comment by Annie — August 27, 2020 @ 8:07 pm

  5. My sister was doing something stupid and made me laugh while I was brushing my teeth with Colgate with Scope Outlast. I am a first time TP inhaler and I’m so happy to have found this community but so sorry anyone else has had to experience this. My throat feels cold and spicy. I thought I was going to die. I wish there was a support hotline I could call for reassurance.

    Comment by Tabby — August 27, 2020 @ 7:20 pm

  6. Its July 14, 2020 and i just inhaled toothpaste. What a nightmare, in the middle of a pandemic too.

    Comment by Ashley — July 14, 2020 @ 8:23 am

  7. I just inhaled some toothpaste. It didn’t burn but I started coughing a lot and I can still feel It in the back of my throat. I’m afraid I might dry drown from it. Like maybe the toothpaste will get trapped in my vocal box and cause a spasm in my air way leading to suffocating and then death. I need some reassurance please!

    Comment by Gwynn — May 31, 2020 @ 11:36 pm

  8. I found this post because something similar happened to me just now. I’d accidentally swallowed a bit and then coughed at the same time and forced some into my sinuses I guess, the pain is hard to describe. My throat and nose and even my ears felt like they were literally on fire. I spent the next ten minutes sipping water, drank some milk, the burning finally went away but my throat was still sore for hours. I don’t think I’ll ever use mint toothpaste again. I don’t even like mint stuff anyway but it’s all we had for some reason.

    Comment by Jackie — March 12, 2020 @ 7:05 pm

  9. Another TP inhaler survivor here. I just can’t even begin to tell you the panic that set in! I’m sure you already know! The initial difficulty breathing has passed, but every time I swallow I feel the result of my accidental inhalation. The searing pain in my throat that is followed by the need to cough. Not to mention the mucus/phlegm/residual inhaled tp that feels like is just sitting at the back of my throat. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

    Comment by Kelly — November 2, 2019 @ 12:29 am

  10. I’m so glad I found this thread. About 20 minutes ago I started brushing my teeth and a second later accidentally inhaled and experienced the hell!! So much burning and difficulty breathing. My throat now feels like there’s some thing stuck in it. Like I’ve had a cold for a week. It hurts to swallow.

    Comment by Megan — October 18, 2019 @ 11:16 pm

  11. Boy oh boy that was intense!!! I’m sat drinking milk trying to calm down the pain. Its beyond hideous and panicked, vomited, swallowed, coughed, vomited, and repeat!! Milk is certainly helping but that was scary.
    Glad it’s not just me and thank God for the internet to reassure myself late at night, that I’m not actually dying!

    Comment by Mel — September 28, 2019 @ 3:45 pm

  12. 64 years old. 1st time TP inhaler. I once was choking on a piece of apple. Was alone. Had to drop onto the fender of my car to dislodge apple chunk. Cracked rib. This was worse. No warning. Nothing. Colgate be damned! This can’t be my entire fault. I’m laughing. So glad to be alive! Is there a good TP out there that won’t ever let this happen again?

    Comment by Ron — August 24, 2019 @ 10:31 pm

  13. I’m so happy to read this has happened to other people. So much coughing. So much pain.

    Comment by Jack — June 8, 2019 @ 7:07 am

  14. OMG I’m 50 and this is the first time anything like this has ever happened. Just inhaled a small amount of colgate toothpaste and the burning down my throat was intense!!!! I couldn’t breath for about 20 seconds, very scared at that moment. Its been around 30 minutes and my throat is still on fire but at least it doesn’t hurt to breath anymore,that was the first 10 minutes, (which is how i found this post). Man, does this suck, all I want to do is climb in to bed and go to sleep but I cant. Anyway I’m glad Im not the only one.

    Comment by Cliff — May 22, 2019 @ 7:22 pm

  15. Date: 13 Mar 2019.
    Time: 9:14am.
    Active agent: Maclean’s multi action (found out what multi action is the hard way)
    Incident: brushing teeth with lots of toothpaste foam due to over application of aid product. Almost lost some out off my mouth and on to freshly ironed shirt. Sucked in hard to avoid shirt spillage, and instantly knew I was in trouble. Intense burning sensation kicked out in in about 2 seconds. Trachea reduced to a pin hole. Couldn’t cough for a few moments, just stunned and scared. Coughing began, desperately sucking in minute amounts of air in between. 30 seconds in, dry retching began, followed by seeing stars and dropping to my knees to maintain face proximity to the basin without falling over. Tears everywhere. Within about one minute, vomiting began. Coughing an vomiting hard for about 10 minutes. Regained composure after about half an hour. I’m writing this at 3pm the same day and still coughing up minty residue every 10 minutes or so…. but I am alive 🙂 This was a large inhale of mint toothpaste, and it sucked bigtime. The internet is great. I’m feeling better knowing I’m not the only clown to have done this, and for all future victims, I hope you enjoy my story!

    Comment by Phil — March 12, 2019 @ 9:21 pm

  16. Date: 13 Mar 2019
    Time: 9:14am
    Active agent: Maclean’s multi action (found out what the multi action is the hard way)
    Incident: brushing teeth with lots of toothpaste foam due to over application of said product. Almost lost some out off my mouth and on to my freshly ironed shirt. Sucked in hard to avoid shirt spillage, and instantly knew I was in trouble. Intense burning sensation took about 2 seconds to fully shut down my trachea. Eyes watering, seeing stars, I began to cough eventually. With no oxygen coming in, dropped to my knees to maintain control as dry retching began, gasping for whatever air I could squeeze through the pinhole off an airway I had just acquired. After several episodes of this, vomiting began. Continued to vomit on and off for around 10 minutes, struggling to breath the whole time. 20 minutes later have regained just enough composure to head off to work.
    Time: 2:19pm same day
    After effects: mild throat discomfort, still clearing the minty remnants from my airways every 5 minutes or so. But I am alive 🙂

    Comment by Phil — March 12, 2019 @ 8:26 pm

  17. It happened to me like two hours ago, this is extremely painful. I swear to God that something that painful never happened to me. I was about to call an ambulance in fear of me choking to death… I’m kinda scared to even brush my teeth now… my throat feels a little bit sore right now but it’s still kinda painful. I also vomited, but, it was just a little and it didn’t help. So if this ever happens to you, try not to vomit because it will make things worse. Anyway, this experience is terrible and I have never heard from my family or friends that stuff like that could happen.

    Comment by DjAlonDevil — February 7, 2019 @ 11:21 am

  18. Yea… this just happened to me . oops 🙁

    Comment by Matt — November 11, 2018 @ 10:09 pm

  19. I Inhaled Colgate Sensitive toothpaste tonight. My husband went to the store so I was by myself. I thought I was going to suffocate to death. I just couldn’t breathe. My throat was burning, eyes were watering, I couldn’t stop coughing and I was wheezing. Now for some reason I am burping a lot. Worst experience I can remember having. Now I’m scared to brush my teeth again. It’s been about 20 minutes and it’s still burning, still having trouble breathing and still burping. Throwing all the Colgate toothpaste away!!!

    Comment by Cindy — October 13, 2018 @ 5:34 pm

  20. My THROAT!!! (Sad face) OMG inhaling toothpaste is the worst burn there ever was. What a miserable experience when I was just trying to simply brush my teeth.

    Comment by Brittany — October 7, 2018 @ 3:48 am

  21. This just happened to me , I’m 19 years old. I died and came back to life frantically searching google for a burning throat rememdy. I wonder how long the burning lasts because it’s so annoying.

    Comment by Spencer McElway — September 27, 2018 @ 6:34 am

  22. Thank gawd I’m not alone.. you’d think by 50 I would have mastered this task..but alas no. 💜
    I honestly thought I would have to go to the the pain, the phlegm, and now the shaking of the head and laughing at myself.

    Comment by Kim — August 9, 2018 @ 4:08 am

  23. I too am a member of the “Me Toothpaste” movement! I just don’t understand how we don’t have some sort of identifying mark left upon us by this horrificating tragedy!

    Comment by Callie — July 29, 2018 @ 11:32 am

  24. Oh my gosh I have experience Cholking on toothpaste yesterday evening and I experienced much of what people are describing here! I almost thought I should go to er but didn’t not. It is the next morning now and my throat is very scratchy and sore and I have a headache. Going to take some Motrin and hope that helps. Grateful for this thread and knowing I will survive this.

    Comment by Janice loney — July 20, 2018 @ 6:46 am

  25. Omg! I am another Colgate survivor. In all my 38 yrs I have never inhaled toothpaste!! I think I almost died. So glad I found this thread when I went to google. I was certain I needed a hospital! It’s been about 30 mins now and the burning is less and I’m coughing less but WOW! All of your descriptions are exactly what happened. Can’t breathe, coughing, burning…omg the burning which caused coughing which then caused more burning!! What just happened?!? Did we make it? Are we okay??

    Comment by Amber — July 11, 2018 @ 10:40 pm

  26. Lord have mercy. I thought I was going to choke to death!

    Comment by Patrick — May 16, 2018 @ 9:29 am

  27. Another Colgate survivor here. Jeez, my whole throat closed down. I could breath out, but could not even get a teeny bit of breath in. It was as though it closed shut. 44 Years of
    age and the first time it has happened to me.

    Comment by Claire — February 16, 2018 @ 6:51 pm

  28. oh my god!
    I am so afraid of dry-drowning I literally thought to myself that this would be my last day, since inhaling a toothpaste would for sure kill me!

    Glad to know that I can go to bed, coughing, and still be alive tomorrow 😀

    Comment by Evs — November 13, 2017 @ 6:48 pm

  29. Wow, thanks, gyus! i was at cam when… MYTHROATDIES! Im glad im not alone on thus toothpaste-horror-story! im still alive 😉

    Comment by Thankgodnoposion — October 5, 2017 @ 6:26 pm

  30. Thank God I’m not alone and will survive this.

    I’m a recovering asthmatic and I thought for sure that I was going to die a slow death alone in the bathroom with my clogged lungs and the doctors would find no evidence of what had gone wrong.

    I’ve never inhaled toothpaste before. I think I was too happy this morning. It is a very sunny day. Maybe I can carried away in my joy. I’ll be much more careful from now on.

    Wow. I thought for sure this has never happened to anyone before. I’m 36 years old. Even my daughter does not INHALE the toothpaste.

    Comment by Anne — July 11, 2017 @ 8:27 am

  31. I feel like God has punished for something! how can I possibly almost die from inhaling the whitening toothpaste foam while brushing my teeth!!?? and the burning ohh the burning … it feels like I got a 3rd degree burn. after 20 mins my voice is hoarse and i am chocking by this thick saliva which I have no idea why are being produced.. the worst thing is that I am trying to clear my throat and it still burns. I am afraid of brushing my teeth again… But I am so relieved that you guys experienced the same; I am not alone haha

    Comment by Angelika — February 17, 2017 @ 7:18 pm

  32. Googled inhaled toothpaste-can it get into the lung, feeling stupid- but thankfully this mass of comments appeared and it called me right down. I feel awful, my throat feels so sore and my eyes are watering, I’m not crying really I’m not.
    I am finding it easier to breathe through my nose now and will do that for a while as breathing through my mouth just makes me want to cough and gag again. The toothpaste was Arm& Hammer truly radiant.
    I honestly thought I was going pass out as breathing was so difficult and painful, almost vomited which I hate. The more I coughed the worse it got but it was instinct to try and clear it, the panic from not being able to breathe was awful,
    I survived but I don’t think it’s over yet.

    Comment by Mrs. John — January 24, 2017 @ 4:14 am

  33. As I typed into google ‘inhaled toothpaste while brushing my teeth’ , I felt a mix of embaressment and stupidity, as well as panic to quickly figure out if I really needed to go to the hospital. I was expecting to find nothing on the ‘accident’ and/or treatment. But I clicked on the first link, and I found you guys. And it makes me feel so much better that I am not the only one to experience this exact same scenario. The first and worst part of the inhalation was the suffocating moment- there was no breath I could take– the coughing saved me, although I felt like it made the pain worse.
    But my ab muscles started clenching, forcing me to regurgitate whatever was there back up. I absolutely hate vomiting and avoid it all the time (I’d rather suffer through a terrible day-long hangover than vomit out the previous nights’ ingestions…) I was freshly out of the shower, not yet dressed and only thoughts of death swarmed into my head; trying to figure out how I would tell 911 what was happening. The coughing just made it worse and would just bring on more gagging / vomiting. I drank loads of water, gargled, but the only thing that allowed it to pass was time. The nuasea went away slowly and now it’s just the throat pain. Shortly after I texted my boyfriend and told him I think i almost died. It really felt like I was going to suffocate to death……
    Anyway, safe to say, I AM a survivor !!!!!!! And thank you all for your great posts. I’m so happy to have found you.
    P.s it’s been almost 2 hours and I still have sandpaper throat and an acid taste. I hope it didn’t do much more damage.

    Comment by Nicole — January 10, 2017 @ 4:42 pm

  34. Colgate tried to kill me too! Inhaled a bit of it and then couldn’t breathe, I thought I was going to die! I drank lots of water and coughed a lot, which burned so much, and then got a popsicle. It’s now about 15 minutes post Colgate inhalation, and the burning sensation is less but still there. Hope it’s gone overnight! Worst thing in the world…

    Comment by Karla Vasquez — December 23, 2016 @ 10:57 pm

  35. Just did this and it feels like sandpaper in my glottis. Hurts to cough. Definitely worst experience I’ve ever had. In the heat of moment I got scared and put my finger down my throat to make myself puke and then I realized how dumb that was.

    Comment by Catie — December 13, 2016 @ 9:54 pm

  36. Hi, I’m Nicky, and I too am a Colgate survivor. I was brushing my teeth when I heard something in the news about war between Russia and USA is Hillary wins and I inhaled in surprise. My throat shut down immediately, I couldn’t breathe, I was coughing! My eyes started to water! every time I coughed felt like sand paper rubbing against my throat. I one point I thought I’d vomit!! It felt like I had held my breath for at least a minute!! It’s been 5 hours and my voice my voice is hoarse. In my 28 years of life I never thought I’d potentially die from brushing my teeth until today! I felt this was too embarrassing to tell people but I feel better knowing that there are other toothpaste breathers out there.:D

    Comment by Nicky — October 21, 2016 @ 1:33 pm

  37. My name is Jeff, and i inhaled toothpaste. *HI JEFF*.
    It all started when I was 40 and coughed while brushing. I have a problem, thank u all.

    Comment by Jeff — September 26, 2016 @ 7:10 am

  38. So I also had this experience this morning. I was alone and somehow inhaled a glob of toothpaste foam. At first I thought I could just cough it out, but then the excruciating burning started, and coughing just made it worse. I couldn’t breathe at one point and started to panic. I then started vomiting but that just brought more acid into the picture, which didn’t help at all. What a nightmare! I thought I was going to die alone on my bathroom floor, foaming at the mouth. What would people think? Surely not that I had died from brushing my teeth? It is now 3 hours later and I’m still coughing and have burning in the back of my throat. I agree there should be some kind of warning on the toothpaste, but also reassurance that you won’t die if it is inhaled but will be extremely uncomfortable. Holding my breath while brushing from now on. Oh, and I am over 40.

    Comment by Patty — September 2, 2016 @ 9:17 am

  39. 53 with habit of choking on own spit. Last night I inhaled toothpaste spit. It is 24 hours later and I am still coughing and clearing my throat. During the night and again this morning, I coughed so hard, I nearly vomited. Now I cannot function because of exhaustion, chest pain from coughing, and a horrible headache. I’m just glad to know that I will survive this lovely. painful, burning experience of fun. Thank goodness I don’t have to go to work today! I am so glad to have found a community of toothpaste breathers to help me understand and cope. Please, never let this happen again!!!!

    Comment by Anne Jenkins — July 29, 2016 @ 9:59 am

  40. Oh my dear god I’m so glad I found this page. It has taken me 23 years to experience pain like this and I hope it never happens again.
    “The incident” happened about 10 mins ago (feels like hours), I thought I would never breathe again and after much coughing, gagging and vomiting as quietly as I can because this happened at 1.30am I will try and sleep it off. If I dont wake up tomorrow tell my family I love them and wage war on Colgate

    Comment by Kiri — June 4, 2016 @ 8:39 am

  41. Sweet jesus have mercy on my airway. I think I coughed up a half gallon of frothy toothpaste cleaned bronchial lung nuggets. The afterburn of vomit pales in comparison. Screw waterboarding, this is torture.

    Comment by Andy Throatferno — June 1, 2016 @ 8:53 pm

  42. When your husband says ‘do you smell something?’ Do not, I repeat, do not inhale while you have toothpaste in your mouth. Oh the pain! Who knew brushing your teeth could be so dangerous! It’s been 10 minutes now and I am still alive.

    Comment by Nic — January 25, 2016 @ 5:06 am

  43. Thank God for Google, I was about to call poison control because I inhaled a bit of toothpaste and my throat feels like it is in one of the circles of hell. Now I know that I am not alone, and apparently no one has died from this….but dang, this hurts.

    Comment by Lara — January 19, 2016 @ 10:29 pm

  44. Thank the lord, i thought i was going to die until i read these. It felt like i swallowed a tube of icy hot and it was hardening in my throat. Absolutely terrifying.

    Comment by Gabe — November 28, 2015 @ 12:30 am

  45. Like most of you…this has never happened to me before. 35+ years and not once…until now. Went to brush my teeth this evening and realized we were out of our usual adult brand so I used Colgate for kids….HOLY CRAP! This is for kids?!?! I hate to think how my 8 year old would handle this as I felt like I was dying. It’s been 15 minutes and my throat is STILL burning………ugh.

    Comment by Christal — November 14, 2015 @ 8:52 pm

  46. When I inhaled I felt the toothpaste go up the pipe somehow and now no amount of water will reach the spot that’s bothering me. I also had a horrible gag reflex and was this close to vomiting. Throat still feels like sandpaper, but at least I found this amazing page.

    Comment by Ryann — November 14, 2015 @ 1:58 am

  47. I thought I was dead.The worst pain every.
    It’s four hours later and I can still hardly talk.
    This shit ain’t funny.
    Colgate suck!!!!

    Comment by Chris — October 22, 2015 @ 2:10 pm

  48. This is hilarious. I just did this (Colgate Triple Action) and I thought I was going to die. I’m glad it seems no one has posted anything implying that the worst is still to come…. unless you all did die?

    We should start a support group.

    Comment by Omar — January 31, 2015 @ 6:17 am

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