Top 10 Things Kids Accidentally Swallow
Earring? Boogers? Oh dear. Dr. Laura A. Jana reveals the top items kids accidentally swallow, plus how to avoid serious health concerns.
“Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck”—right? Not always. Why is swallowing coins so common for kids? “They’re readily available,” Dr. Jana explains. To avoid mishaps, collect quarters or sort change on a high shelf out of children’s curious grasp.
Baby’s pierced ears cause most jewelry jams. Many parents rush to swap the starter pair (with sturdy, screw-in backs) for a new set. Wrong move, Dr. Jana warns. Leave in the originals or wait to pierce until she’s older.
Kids’ clothes are built so parents need to buy more (frequently!), which explains why buttons and frills pop off so easily. But while you grumble about wasting money on cheap labor, your kid may unravel a button and gulp it down like a jellybean.
“Boogers are the biggest one,” Dr. Jana says of what kids swallow. Parents may feel embarrassed to admit it, but plenty of kids pick their nose and eat it, especially if blowing one’s nose or using a tissue is an issue. Allergy and cold season only increases this behavior, Dr. Jana advises.
Leaving a calcium supplement by your breakfast bowl or placing two Excedrin on the bathroom counter is commonplace for most couples. But most pitfalls occur from “anything that tends to be left sitting around within a baby’s reach,” Dr. Jana says.
Button batteries found in watches, cameras, and hearing aids are the most commonly ingested. Because of their tiny size, babies find these batteries easy to swallow. If this happens, seek immediate medical help. Because they are toxic, batteries stuck in the esophagus or stomach can corrode the wall of the intestinal lining, letting intestinal bacteria enter the sterile stomach, Dr. Jana warns.
“Everyone studies this in pediatrics,” Dr. Jana says. Kids twist and play with their hair, and some put it in their mouth, she observes. Some kids develop a hair bezoar, or a collection of hair in the stomach, which doctors must remove by surgery or scope.
Be careful of the toys you bring into your home: small magnets can become loose and accidentally be swallowed. Contact a doctor immediately if you suspect your child has swallowed a magnet. If a magnet breaks apart in the body and parts land with a piece of stomach or intestine between them, the parts can magnetize toward each other and create a hole in the stomach and intestinal walls, explains Dr. Jana.
Nails, Pins, & Tacks
Beware of handling tiny tools around your baby. Nails, screws, and tacks are easily dropped and tend to disappear in thick carpeting or once they roll under the furniture. If swallowed, these sharp metal tools can puncture or get stuck in your child’s intestinal lining. Err on the side of caution and call your doctor or seek prompt medical attention as soon as you suspect the swallowing. However, call 911 if your child is vomiting blood or showing severe abdominal pain, Dr. Jana says.
More Bizzarro Mouthfuls
Arts and crafts supplies—such as staples and antibacterial hand gel—can also be dangerous culprits. Besides curiousity and accidents, sometimes other factors come into play: ADHD, autism, and other special needs can cause kids to crave strange foods. Some children even suffer from
pica, a condition where one constantly eats non-food items usually due to an iron deficiency.
1. Know the symptoms. Look for choking signs like coughing, sputtering, wheezing, and respiratory difficulties. Listen up if your child suddenly speaks in a raspy voice. These signs may point to a potential blockage in the airway. Be cautious and call 911. A doctor or ENT may need to remove the item with a scope.
2. Determine the danger. Corrosive or toxic objects such as batteries, magnets, coins, or pills can cause serious problems in the stomach and intestinal lining. Call Poison Control or 911 immediately.
3. Understand what’s safe. Swallowing crayons, buttons, and Play-Doh may be non-threatening. If the item is not sharp, corrosive, or large enough to cause a blockage, it may pass through the body without any negative effects. Double-check with your doctor to be certain. Read more on
baby safety here.
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