Parents across the globe have seven words in common that is spoken on a regular basis…”do not put that in your mouth.” All parents at some point in time have experienced their child putting items up their nose, in their ears or in their mouth. There have been reports of moms and/or dads running late for work because they could not find their car keys, only to realize that the key was somewhere between their child’s esophagus and stomach. Children love to explore and one of the ways they do this is by tasting. Trouble is often times when sampling the cuisine of toys, pills, batteries or coins, they get swallowed.
The human digestive system is an amazing thing and the majority of items that are consumed will pass through the bowels at some point in time, with the average being 11 hours, but it can take up to 7 days. X-rays from hundreds of emergency rooms show the most common things swallowed are coins and buttons. Small items such as a coin or button, do not usually cause serious problems as they pass through the esophagus, the narrowest part of a child’s gastrointestinal tract, without getting lodged.
A news station in Orlando did a special report in 2005 on the some bizarre items found in x-rays that were swallowed by children. Their report found safety pins, magnetic toys, batteries and forks to name only a handful. One child ate four pieces of a magnetic toy at separate times only to have the four pieces reconnect inside the child’s stomach. To remove the toys, Doctors had to surgically remove the pieces one at a time.
Items such as magnetic toys, batteries including the small button batteries can create an electrical circuit in the esophagus, erode and cause perforations which can lead to death. One child brought to the Orlando hospital was drooling uncontrollable and wheezing. When the Doctors ordered an x-ray, it showed the child had a safety pin stuck behind his tongue.
Large items a child may manage to swallow can get stuck anywhere from the esophagus down. Though most items will pass in their stool, many items will have to be surgically removed such as the toy fork one child swallowed in Orlando. The fork made it to the stomach where it was lodged and discovered through x-ray because the child was taken to the emergency room complaining of a stomachache.
One of the first signs that a child has swallowed something they shouldn’t have is coughing, gagging or wheezing. If the child suddenly is extremely sleeping or throwing up, they may have eaten medications. Anytime you suspect the child has eaten or swallowed something besides food, call the poison control center, 911 or take them to the emergency room. Even if you have witnessed the child swallowing a small coin or button, it is still recommended that an x-ray be done to confirm the object is not lodged.
Kids are resilient, curious and will try almost anything. It is important to keep medications, sharp objects and small toys out of reach from little hands. Kids have eaten grandmas medication, fidos dog bone and their favorite Barbie shoe. The warning labels found on 99% of all items that say keep out of the reach of children, are on there because of safety but most of the time it is because at some point in time, some child has tried to eat whatever the warning is on.