It is not a good idea to eat dry ice as it can cause all sort of health problems however if you have accidentally eaten or swallowed dry ice what should you do?
If you have accidentally swallowed dry ice seek medical attention immediately and call 911. Drinking water will help the dry ice to sublimate (turn to gas) and may help avoid burning until you get medical help. However, it's important you burp out excess gas to avoid a buildup of pressure and a ruptured stomach.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not a medical professional and the following should not be seen as medical advice
Dry ice is popular to put in cocktails and halloween drinks due to the way it creates a smoky fog on top of the drinks. Whenever serving these drinks it's important to make guests aware that they should not consume the dry ice in the bottom of the drink.
Dry ice is extremely dangerous to consume and it should not be ingested at any time. However, sometimes accidents do happen and people do occasionally swallow dry ice. If this happens to you it's important to know exactly what to do.
Can It Be Safe To Swallow Dry Ice?
Dry ice is not considered edible however in small quantities swallowing dry ice may not negatively impact you or cause you damage. In the below video you can see Cody actually swallowing small chunks of dry ice, with water and he seems to be fine.
This video was created in 2015 and Cody's channel is still going strong years later, indicating that swallowing dry ice did not kill him or cause any severe damage to his mouth, esophagus or stomach.
Watching this video some of the things you can see he did to help avoid any damage was to only consume a very small amount of dry ice, swallow water with the dry ice and also burp up the CO2 gas.
What I Would Do If I Swallowed or Accidentally Ate Dry Ice
If I happened to swallow dry ice here are some steps I would personally take.
1. Seek Medical Attention
If I happened to swallow dry ice, especially if it's a big chunk, it's extremely important that I seek medical attention straight away.
Burns or frostbite to the mouth, esophagus and stomach are all real threats and there is a chance of a ruptured or perforated stomach which could lead to death if not treated quickly.
In 2020 there was a case where a 9-year old girl drunk the liquid nitrogen left over from her “dragon breath” ice cream and a 3-4 cm full thickness perforation was identified in her stomach and required surgery.
While I could not find any cases of similar stomach perforations from the consumption of dry ice it's definitely better to be safe than sorry. I would call an ambulance or immediately go to hospital.
2. Drink Water and/or Throw Up
If it was a small amount of dry ice that I consumed I would do either or both of the following things:
Firstly I would drink some water. This will do 2 things:
- It will speed up the sublimation of the dry ice into gaseous form so it is no longer able to burn me
- It will provide thermal mass to help avoid any part of my stomach, mouth or esophagus from freezing
As you can see in the above video the expanding gas from the dry ice in the water seems to create a layer of protection where the dry ice isn't really touching the water much.
So by drinking water hopefully this could provide a layer of protection in my stomach until the dry ice has completely sublimated.
Small amounts of dry ice might only last a few minutes in water and because water is 23.5 times more efficient in transferring heat than air it'll cause the dry ice to sublimate faster than if I just left it in my stomach.
The next thing I would consider doing, especially if it was a large piece of dry ice I accidentally swallow was to throw up.
This creates a risk of burning your esophagus on the way back up however it may be a risk I would be willing to take rather than having it potentially causing a perforation in my stomach.
I would personally drink water beforehand so there is more liquid to throw up with the dry ice.
NOTE: I would still seek urgent medical attention even after performing the above.
Try Not To Eat Dry Ice EVER
Dry ice can be extremely dangerous when it's not handled properly so it's really important that you try to avoid consuming dry ice at all times.
If serving dry ice in drinks be sure all your guests know NOT to eat the dry ice and the dangers it poses and ideally avoid giving dry ice drinks to any children who may not be aware of the dangers or who may forget and end up consuming the dry ice and not telling anyone.