As we all know, one of the ways infants and toddlers explore their world is by tasting it. Their explorations are not limited to unusual cuisines such as coins, buttons, and dirt, but occasionally items like bullets, light bulbs, and in some households, even cocaine or other illegal substances.
In an article written by IANS and published on the Thaindian news website, a six year old girl in Kolkata, India swallowed a sewing needle in February, 2010 while trying to stitch a new dress for her doll. The girl was unable to eat and was in extreme pain until doctors completed an operative endoscopy to remove the foreign object from her stomach. Luckily, the procedure was successful and the girl was released from the hospital.
In August of 2007, a 23 year old Wisconsin mother left LSD laced candy in the form of Sweet Tarts lying out and her daughter ate some of them. When the mother realized that the child had eaten the drugs, she took her to the hospital where she was treated for accidental ingestion of LSD, and then she was transferred to another hospital where she received intravenous detoxification. The police were notified and the mother was charged with several offenses including child abuse and possession of narcotics. According to WISN.com, the child was released from the hospital to the custody of her dad.
While most objects that make it into the stomach are passed through the digestive system without serious problems, many get stuck in the throat and can cause death if immediate attention is not received. The Consumer Product Safety Commission receives about 15 new reports of choking deaths each year involving children under age 3. Small toys, toy parts, balloons, balls and marbles are among the more recognizable hazards, but everyday household items that are not intended for use by young children also pose choking dangers.
One of the most dangerous items that can be ingested by a young child is two or more magnets. When more than one magnet is swallowed, they may attach to each other and cause intestinal perforation, infection or blockage, which can be fatal. An eight-year-old girl from Indiana swallowed 10 magnets and 20 steel balls from a toy in 2008 because she said they “Looked like candy”. The magnets and steel caused eight gunshot like holes in the girls intestines and required emergency surgery to save her life.
Mattel, Inc. recalled 4.4 million Polly Pocket magnetic play sets in 2006 after three children were hospitalized with serious injuries from swallowing the tiny magnets after they fell off the toys. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it received 170 reports of the magnets falling from the dolls and accessories in the play sets, which were the best selling miniature dolls in the world at the time. Each of the three injured children swallowed more than one magnet and suffered intestinal perforation that required immediate surgery.
Another dangerous item commonly swallowed by infants and small children is batteries. The American Association of Pediatrics reports that 13 children died as a result of ingesting batteries between 1985 and 2009. Batteries lodged in the esophagus have required children to have feeding or breathing tubes for months or years along with multiple surgical repairs. Studies by the AAP suggest that the batteries must be removed from the esophagus within two hours to prevent these serious injuries.
According to an article on Kidshealth.org, as many as 25% to 30% of kids have an eating disorder called pica which is characterized by persistent and compulsive cravings (lasting 1 month or longer) to eat non-food items. The word pica comes from the Latin word for magpie, a bird that will eat just about anything. Pica is most common in children with developmental disabilities such as autism and mental retardation, and in children between the ages of 2 and 3. Children with pica frequently crave and eat such non-food items as dirt, clay, paint chips, cigarette ashes, and feces to name a few.
A doctor at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville told NewsChannel 5 that the weirdest thing they had encountered was to remove the same coin from the same child twice on the same night because the parents gave the coin back to the child. As a result, the doctor now keeps everything he retrieves!