What Happens If You Eat Matches?

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Matches are harmful if eaten.
Matches are harmful if eaten. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Matches are not edible and may cause harm to your body. Some people who have a disorder called pica crave eating non-food items such as burnt matches and dirt. Young children typically have pica as part of the exploration of their surroundings, while some pregnant women may also encounter pica cravings. If you are curious about eating matches, it is better to leave them for their purpose of starting flames.

Taste

The first thing that happens if you eat matches you will notice a terrible taste. Modern matches are made from red phosphorus, potassium chlorate and sulfur, according to Popular Science magazine. The red phosphorus ignites the match, while the potassium chlorate and sulfur is the fuel for it. Once the match is struck, the chemical reaction makes white phosphorus that sets off the match. If you eat matches you will have a sulfur phosphorus taste in your mouth, that would be like metallic, rotten eggs.

Breath

If you eat matches, your breath will have a garlic-like odor. According to "The Journal of Nutrition," garlic contains sulfur, which is one of the main ingredients for matches. Though the journal has found benefits of garlic, there are no health benefits for eating matches. So if you happen to eat matches your breath will smell similar to garlic. This is one sign of a pet or child who has eaten matches.

Stomach Pain

Eating matches may cause abdominal pain. You may also experience stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. This is from the phosphorus and sulfur, which are also ingredients in rat poison. According to the U.K.'s National Health Service, an adult should have no more than 550mg of phosphorus a day. This is why matches can be poisonous, especially to children.

Coma

You can go into convulsions and a coma. The U.K.'s National Health Service also notes that too much phosphorus over time reduces the body's calcium, which may lead to bone loss. According to the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, phosphorus poisoning was found in match factory workers. Phosphorus binds to mucous membranes in the body and overexposure to matches may cause serious liver, heart, kidney and central nervous system damage.

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