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How to Get a Popcorn Kernel Out of Your Throat

by klarsen28@gmail.com
Man choking on popcorn stuck in throat.

We’ve all been there: you’re enjoying a movie night with a bowl of delicious popcorn when suddenly, a kernel gets lodged in your throat. It can be an uncomfortable and even alarming experience, but don’t panic! In this article, we’ll explore the causes of popcorn getting stuck in your throat and provide some effective remedies to alleviate the discomfort. So, let’s dive in and learn how to handle this common popcorn predicament!

Bowl of popped popcorn.

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What Causes Popcorn to Get Stuck in Your Throat


Dryness in the throat can make it easier for popcorn to get stuck. When the throat lacks sufficient moisture, the popcorn kernel may cling to the throat lining instead of sliding down smoothly.

Size and Shape of Popcorn

The size and shape of the popcorn kernel play a role in determining the likelihood of it getting stuck. Unpopped or partially popped kernels, as well as larger pieces of popcorn, can present a greater risk of becoming lodged in the throat.

Learn about the difference between mushroom and butterfly popcorn!

Chewing Habits

Sometimes, despite our best efforts to chew thoroughly, a rogue popcorn kernel may find its way into our throat. This can happen due to various reasons, including:

  1. Size and Shape: Popcorn kernels have irregular shapes and sizes, making them more prone to getting stuck in the throat.
  2. Chewing Habits: If you rush while eating or don’t chew popcorn properly, larger pieces or partially popped kernels can get lodged in your throat.
  3. Dryness: Consuming popcorn without sufficient liquid or in a dry environment can make it harder to swallow, increasing the risk of a kernel getting stuck.
Woman's hand in a bowl of popcorn while she holds a phone.

Symptoms of Popcorn Stuck in the Throat

When a piece of popcorn gets stuck in the throat, it can cause various symptoms, including:

  • Persistent feeling of a foreign object in your throat
  • Discomfort or pain while swallowing
  • Difficulty speaking or breathing
  • Coughing or choking when attempting to clear the obstruction
Doctor with his arms crossed.

Remedies to Relieve Popcorn Throat Troubles

If you find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having popcorn stuck in your throat, don’t panic. Try these remedies to ease the discomfort:

1. Stay Calm and Cough It Out

In most cases, a stuck popcorn kernel can be dislodged by coughing. Take deep breaths, stay calm, and try gentle coughing techniques. You want to cough in a controlled manner, not forcefully, as excessive coughing might irritate your throat even more. Coughing is my first go-to method and it usually works for me when I’ve had popcorn stuck in my throat.

2. Sip Warm Liquids

Drinking warm water can help soothe your throat and potentially soften the kernel, making it easier to swallow or dislodge. Take small sips of warm water and allow it to flow over the area where the popcorn is stuck. Fluids, such as warm water, herbal tea or warm broth can help lubricate your throat, making it easier for the kernel to move and dislodge itself. Avoid consuming carbonated or sugary beverages, as these can exacerbate the discomfort.

3. Eat Soft Foods

Soft foods may help dislodge a popcorn shell from your throat because their bulkier texture can exert gentle pressure on the lodged object, potentially encouraging movement or swallowing. Additionally, soft foods provide lubrication, reducing friction and facilitating the shell’s passage down the throat.

Opt for foods that are easy to swallow and won’t aggravate the situation. Examples of soft foods include mashed potatoes, yogurt, or apple sauce. These foods can help push the kernel down and relieve the sensation of it being stuck.

4. Gargle with Saltwater

Gargling with warm saltwater can provide relief and may help loosen the popcorn kernel. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle for about 30 seconds. The saltwater solution can help reduce inflammation and irritation in your throat, making it easier for the kernel to move.

5. Try the “Huff Cough” Technique

The “huff cough” technique is a gentle but effective way to dislodge a popcorn kernel from your throat. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Take a deep breath in through your nose.
  2. Hold your breath for a few seconds.
  3. Exhale forcefully through your mouth with a “huff” sound, as if you were trying to fog up a mirror.

The forceful exhale can create a burst of air that may help dislodge the kernel from your throat. Repeat this technique a few times if necessary.

6. Use Throat Lozenges or Sprays

Throat lozenges or sprays with a numbing effect can provide temporary relief by reducing throat irritation and discomfort. Look for products containing ingredients like benzocaine or menthol and follow the instructions for proper usage.

7. Seek Medical Attention if Necessary

In rare cases where the popcorn kernel remains lodged in your throat despite trying these techniques, or if you experience severe pain, difficulty breathing, or prolonged discomfort, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly. A healthcare professional can assess the situation and provide appropriate treatment to safely remove the kernel.

Woman's hand grabbing a piece of popcorn from a bowl.

Prevention Tips

Preventing popcorn from getting stuck in your throat is preferable to dealing with the issue after it occurs. Consider the following tips:

  1. Chew popcorn thoroughly: Take your time to chew popcorn thoroughly before swallowing. This helps break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces.
  2. Avoid eating large pieces or hard kernels: Be mindful of the size of the popcorn pieces you consume. And avoid swallowing large pieces or half-popped popcorn. Instead opt for smaller, fully popped kernels and avoid unpopped or partially popped kernels.
  3. Drink enough fluids while eating popcorn: Ensure you stay hydrated while enjoying popcorn. Drinking fluids can help moisten your throat and reduce the chances of the popcorn getting stuck.
  4. Try hulless popcorn: Although hulless popcorn isn’t completely hulless, the hulls are much softer and more tender than regular popcorn which reduces the risk of popcorn stuck in your throat.
  5. Be cautious when eating popcorn with children: Children, especially younger ones, may be more prone to choking on popcorn. Supervise them closely and ensure they chew small pieces thoroughly or consider alternatives if popcorn poses a choking risk.

Want to know more about hulless popcorn? Read my article and learn everything you need to know about hulless popcorn!


Can drinking carbonated beverages help dislodge a popcorn kernel?

Carbonated beverages are not typically recommended as a method to remove a popcorn kernel. While they may create some fizziness in your throat, it’s best to stick to water or warm fluids for lubrication.

Is it dangerous to swallow a popcorn kernel?

Swallowing a popcorn kernel is usually harmless, as it will pass through your digestive system without causing any issues. However, if it gets stuck in your throat, it can be uncomfortable and may require intervention to remove it.

Can I prevent popcorn kernels from getting stuck in my throat?

Yes, you can reduce the risk of getting a popcorn kernel stuck in your throat by chewing your popcorn thoroughly, eating it slowly, and being mindful of the hulls that may remain.

Can children choke on popcorn kernels more easily than adults?

Yes, children under the age of four are at a higher risk of choking on popcorn kernels. It’s important to supervise young children when they are eating popcorn and avoid giving them whole kernels.

How long does it take for a popcorn kernel to pass through the digestive system naturally?

In most cases, a popcorn kernel will pass through the digestive system within a couple of days. However, if you experience prolonged discomfort or severe symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention.

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