Little ones are notorious for swallowing just about anything that looks interesting. Shiny, colorful, different texture, etc; if they like it, it goes in the mouth for a ride. But sometimes the ride is more bumpy and dangerous than most people imagine. What seems like a harmless piece of gum could end up choking the child and end in an unexpected rush to ER; or a random medicine pill you dropped could wind up making the little one extremely sick. With such little bodies, and very large “ooooooooh what’s this?” mentalities, anything could be swallowed; from a piece of Play-Doh, to bugs, a battery, or even a sip of that funny brown liquid in the glass cup that smells funny, a.k.a whiskey. I’ve had my share of eating weird things, and I’ve watched my brothers and younger cousins for years, and thanks to the internet and some personal experiences, I have compiled a guide of sorts, with explainations, as to what is Safe, Keep An Eye On Them, Be Extra Careful and May Have To Rush To ER. I’ve also included the Poison Control Center Hotline, which is free and available 24/7, all days of the year, including holidays. The United States phone number is 1-800-222-1222.
Among the “safe” items are crayons and Play-Doh; because they are made non-toxic, it’s fine if your little one swallows some. However, it’s advised to keep an eye on them, because a big chunk of crayon or a big glob of Play-Doh could be a choking hazard. Another Safe item is pet food. It’s safety is along the same lines as crayons and Play-Doh; Non-Toxic, but big chunks could be a choking hazard. Human Hair, believe it or not, is non-toxic as well, in small amounts. A bit too much hair could cause a hairball to form in the stomach and be difficult to pass through the digestive tract. Toothpaste is fine in small amounts, a little bit swallowed while brushing, for example, but too much, like a few teaspoons worth every day, can cause severe bone problems and the like. Coins, rocks and buttons are generally safe; passing through the digestive tract with little difficulty, as long as they’re small. The only real problem is if they get stuck in the esophagus and cause choking and/or trouble swallowing. Tums are basically pure calcium, so one or two tablets are fine, but if you’re unsure how many your child swallowed, contact the Poison Control Center.
Among the “Keep An Eye On Them” items are Insects; Gross, but generally safe. A dead fly or gnat is fine, but it’s the poisonous bugs, like spiders, and aggressive insects, such as bees, wasps and beetles, that are the ones to worry about. If your child eats an unknown insect and starts experiencing problems, contact Poison Control or your hospital immediately. Poop is equally as gross as insects, but little bits of human feces aren’t harmful; your child may or may not experience diarrhea. If your child eats animal poop, contact Poison Control immediately; animal poop can have many different types of bacteria and/or diseases that can be extremely harmful to your child’s body. Gum, while not intended for babies or toddlers, is still given to them and chewed. If swallowed, gum is non-toxic, so it won’t hurt your child, however, gum can become lodged anywhere in the esophagus and cause swallowing problems or become a choking hazard, so be careful on how much gum is given to a young child.
In the “Be Extra Careful” items are Dirt, Grass, Plants and Flowers. Dirt and grass can be polluted with dead bugs, insecticides, plant growth hormones, animal poop or urine, dirty water, trash, and many other things, so if a child eats some dirt, keep an eye on them and call Poison Control at the first sign of problems. Flowers can be naturally harmful, and be polluted with any of the things grass and dirt has. Many parts of plants can be accidentally inhaled and can cause many problems if swallowed. For best protection, keep a close eye on young ones when they are outdoors. Also keep them away from bushes, as insects and animals like to dwell in them. Jewelry is another hazard; depending on what type of jewelry, either costume or real, pure jewel or pure metal, size, age, etc, many different things can happen. If a child has swallowed a random bauble, keep an eye on them, and do not induce vomiting unless directed by Poison Control. Hand Sanitizer is another hazard; while a small lick isn’t dangerous, it can still cause upset stomach. If any problems arise, contact the Poison Control Center immediately. Nail Polish can be hazardous if ingested, while I don’t know why a child would eat nail polish, the chemical makeup of nail polish could cause severe problems if ingested. Contact Poison Control if any was taken from a bottle. Keep an eye on them if it was just dried chips of nail polish. Perfume can smell and look appetizing, so a curious young one will take a sip or gulp to test it; have them drink water and watch them. If they all of a sudden get very sleepy, make the call to Poison Control and keep them awake until you can find out what to do. Toys are pretty much self-explanatory; if small parts are swallowed, it could be harmful, that’s why there are age limits. If a child swallows a toy or toy part, and starts to act strangely, keep an eye on them and call Poison Control ASAP.
In the “May Have To Rush To ER” items are Pins, Nails, Tacks, and Needles; anything with a pointed and/or sharp edge should always be kept away from children. Any of the above items could puncture the throat or get stuck along the esophagus. It’s advised to get your child to the ER immediately if any of the above items are ingested, just to make sure the item does not cause potentially fatal damage. Alcohol, even small amounts, could cause alcohol poisoning in a young child, which could be fatal, or severely damage the liver. Medicine pills, vitamins, and supplements not meant for children could cause irreparable damage, and it is advised to rush your child to the ER if he or she ingests an unknown pill. Batteries, even dead ones, can actually get stuck in and burn a hole in the esophagus. Magnets love to attract themselves and little children. If more than one or an unknown amount is swallowed, race to the ER. Two magnets could attract each other on the intestines and cause ripping, necrosis (tissue death) and cause deadly bacteria to enter the digestive tract, which can be fatal. Poisons, Cleaners and Chemicals are kind of obvious; any amount swallowed can cause irreparable damage and can be fatal. And last but not least, Air Freshener of any form. A child might be curious if the stuff that smells good, tastes good, or the diffuser oil could look like juice, or those cute little beads could look like candy, etc. Because air freshener is made up of many chemicals, different types of air freshener can cause different types of damage. If any is swallowed, get to the ER immediately and try to have the bottle or brand name of the freshener memorized or on hand.
Kids are so curious, child proofing can be nearly impossible. But it’s pretty simple: Keep unsafe rooms locked, have small or dangerous objects locked away or way up high and keep an eye on little ones while they are playing. The number for the Poison Control Center for the U.S. is 1-800-222-1222. As always, don’t induce vomiting unless directed by the Poison Control Center. Best of luck keeping your little ones safe, and I hope that this article helps keep at least one child safe.