Fishbones are the most common foreign body to lodge in the swallowing passages. Before eating fish, remove as many bones as possible. Check for fishbones with your tongue, before each swallow. The same applies when eating poultry (especially soup made with cut-up chicken bones).
A fishbone or bird-bone which is stuck in the throat causes sharp pain in that location, which radiates to the ear (on the same side), with each swallow. If pain goes away within a few hours, then the bone probably only made a scratch. But if the pain persists, urgent medical attention is needed.
Here is a news report of a rare outcome (but one that probably could have been prevented, if the patient had gone to the hospital earlier).
This was not the first time that a fishbone has worked it’s way through the esophagus and eventually (after months to years), into a heart or lung.
Over the millenenia, fishbones have killed countless humans. Some historical references have survived.
1. Dr. Chevalier Jackson thought this passage stemmed from ancient times:
He upon the pyre…
…laughed, loved, and lived and liked life well.
Then came–who knows?…
A snake’s nip, half a span of angry steel,
A chill, a fishbone, or a falling tile,
And life was over and the man is dead.
– from “Light of Asia”, Book III, by Edward Arnold, published 1879; charioteer Channa is speaking to the historical Buddha, Prince Gautama (B.C. 563-483), as they witness a ceremonial cremation
2. In the 4th century AD, St. Blaise, an Armenian doctor who became a bishop, apparently saved the life of a child who was choking on a fishbone.