What happens if you eat 25 packs of silica gel

Reprinted from “A Dad Ate 25 Packs Silica Gel For Breakfast. This Is What Happened To His Stomach.” from @Chubbyemu

KC is a 33 year old man, presenting to the emergency room with nausea, and vomiting. He tells the admitting nurse that he was prepared. It was only a matter of time before he could escape the simulation and join everyone else, in the real world.

Main character introduction

KC was a single dad who worked hard to provide for his kids. Over the last 10 years, he had survived several rounds of layoffs at his office job. But even in surviving every single company change, KC could never get a promotion. He’d try to take special projects. He’d try to make friends with the leadership. But nothing he ever did, amounted to any actual movement in his career. All his friends from school were getting bigger titles. They were getting paid, but he was stuck at the bottom, doing the same job as he had had, for the last 10 years. Disillusioned, KC started to despise both people at his company and corporate anything. Any time he saw some kind of messaging on an as or a warning on a label, all he could think of is how much he hated big companies.

Anger and Action

One day, KC hadn’t slept well. He woke up, and wasn’t sure where he was. On the table was a big bag of silica gel desiccant that he had left overnight for his 3D printing hobby. And as he saw the warning on the label, “Silica gel, Do Not Eat”, his immediate contempt for corporate took hold. As he was brushing his teeth, he got angrier and angrier that those packets were speaking to him.

“Those silica gel industry big shots can’t tell me what to do. “He thought, as he put 25 packs of silica gel in a bowl of milk, and started eating them like cereal. Immediately after putting some silica gel peacks in his mouth, KC could feel the crunch on his teeth. The beads immediately stuck on to his tongue. While chewing, he thought the packets tasted bitter and he could feel the sharp edges of chewed beads cut down the side of his throat as he swallowed them down. KC felt the beads settle in his stomach, as he reluctantly opened his work laptop, to clock in for his job. But as the minutes passed, he started feeling uncomfortable. He felt a sour taste pierce in to his cheeks from under his tongue as he started vomiting in a way like never before. At the toilet now, he could taste the silica gel and milk he ate for breakfast come up. In the forceful upwards movement, those beads lodged into his nose. He could feel some beads squeeze in from under his eyes like they were pushing out of his skull. On the floor, in the bathroom. I a world of hurt, KC knew it wasn’t over as he calls for 911 and he’s brought to the emergency room, where we are now.

Hospital Emergency

At examination, doctors find that KC is distressed. Other than the vomiting and nausea, everything else seemed to be normal. He’s breathing. He has a heart rate. He’s alert and responsive. Hekept telling staff that he was ready to escape the simulation and join everyone else in the real world, which gives the doctors some clues as to what could be happening. This possible mental status change could mean something, but KC is otherwise coherent. Ecvept for the fact that he kept telling the nurse that those silica gel industry hotshots can’t tell him what to do. When the doctors asked him what he meant by that, he told them he ate 25 packs of silica gel for breakfast. He poured it in a bowl of milk like it was cereal and ate it. And this tells doctors everything they need to know.

What is Silica Gel?

Silica gel is a fancy name for silicon dioxide. Di meaning 2 and oxide refers to oxygen. Silicon being one of the most abundant elements on earth, not to be confused with silicone implants.

Silicon and silicon dioxide are naturally occurring and are in things like sand. While silicone is not naturally occurring. And silicon and oxygen are some of the most abundant elements available on the planet. But why is silica gel a desiccant? What even is a dessicant? Well, you see, these packets are usually found in packages that you want to be dry. The coffee bean is an example. Camera equipment is another. This is because moisture in the air can make food like coffee taste stale and it can cause mold to grow on camera lenses.

How Does Silica Gel Work?

Dessicant means that silica gel removes moisture, water, from ambient air, but how does it do that? This brings us to an idea of “like dissolves like.”Oils mix together. Water-based things mix together. But water and oil, those things don’t mix together.But water and oil, those things don’t mix together. In chemistry, oxygen and hydrogens play with each other. They attract each other, even when bound to other chemicals. So if water is made only of oxygen and hydrogen, water is dihydrogen monoxide. then this could explain why water based chemicals dissolve each other. But oils are made of carbon and hydrogen. Oils don’t really have much oxygen. And without that oxygen to play, oils separate themselves out from the water, and they don’t interact and they don’t dissolve. So if silicon dioxide has a lot of oxygen, then it does interact with water. In the little pores at the surface of the beads, small water molecules stick on to the surface. Little pores give extra surface and more space for even more water to stick per bead. Because the area’s so large, silica gel takes on large amounts of water relative to its weight, drying gout its surroundings, because silicon dioxide holds on to water stronger than air, explaining how it’s a desiccant. But why does the packet say do not eat?

Break the Myth of Silica Gel

The interesting thing about a label like this is that in English, many people read that as something in here is poisonous if you eat it. Typically if something’s a choking hazard, the label would say choking hazard. But it doesn’t say that here. And even worse, sometimes people will do things, especially when they’re told sometimes people will do things, especially when they’re told not to do it, just like in KC’s case. But what exactly is poisonous here?

This brings us back to silicon dioxide. In chemistry, when things are unstable, they are reactive. The reason they react with something is to become more stable. Poisons do their damage in the body, by doing that reacting. This could happen by blocking a naturally occurring process required to live, like how carbon monoxide stops oxygen from being transported in the red blood cells. Or poisons can react by permanently destroying something in the body, like accidentally drinking a Lava lamp that makes crystals with calcium from your body, that stick in to your kidneys and shred them apart.

The thing with silica gel, is that it’s already stable. It doesn’t need to react with anything. Actually, it’s so stable that it won’t react even if your body tries. It pulls water, but that’s reversible —— you can reuse packets if you heat them in the oven. Meaning, by itself, silica gel is not poisonous in the body. The reason you’re not supposed to eat them is because, it could be a choking hazard. It could block something in your stomach if you eat enough of it. But generally, you don’t eat it because…. Why? It doesn’t do much to your body except maybe adsorb some of the water in your stomach. And if you think you’re eating something weird, your mind’s a powerful construct and you can easily convince yourself to push it back out, which brings us back to KC.

End of story

In the emergency room, doctors realize that nothing terrible is going to happen to KC because he ate silica gel packs. Ths silica beads will suck water out of his stomach, so doctors can rehydrate him, but no toxic actions will happen in his body. As soon as they figured out he didn’t put anything else that could be a problem in his body. They referred him for a psychiatric evaluation.

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