Small child

The child has swallowed a foreign body - quick help, what to do?

The child has swallowed a foreign body - quick help, what to do?

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Swallowing a foreign body by a child is a frequent reason for visiting hospital emergency departments (most often this type of accident concerns children between 3 months and 3 years old). Toddlers usually swallow coins, blocks, or small toys. These objects usually pass through the gastrointestinal tract without major obstacles (up to 80% of foreign bodies within 4 to 6 days), but unfortunately in some cases they can get stuck and even require surgical (endoscopic or surgical) removal. So what are the symptoms of a child swallowing a foreign body and how to give first aid to the child?

Symptoms of swallowing a foreign body by a child

Symptoms of swallowing a foreign body range from total absence of discomfort (small foreign bodies that easily pass through the digestive tract) to breathing disorders, foreign body sensation in the esophagus, drooling, vomiting, or very severe abdominal pain and complete stop of intestinal peristalsis (this condition is called acute abdomen and requires urgent surgical intervention). At this point it is worth noting that the discomfort associated with swallowing a foreign body does not have to appear immediately after the event. Some babies may have them even a few days later and include fever, blood in the stool, chronic abdominal pain as well as loss of appetite and weight.

The child swallowed a foreign body - conduct

Each case of swallowing a foreign body by a toddler is an indication to urgent visit to the doctorwho, after examining a small patient and performing imaging tests (most often a series of X-rays imaging the entire gastrointestinal tract) will decide what to do next.

In most cases it will be observation of the child at home (most foreign bodies that have already moved into the stomach are freely expelled) and an urgent visit to the pediatrician again in the event of any additional symptoms.

The exception is when a foreign body is stuck in the esophagus (the esophagus is a place where nearly 70% of foreign bodies stuck in the digestive tract are located). In this case, an attempt is usually made to remove it endoscopic or gastric puncture methods and follow-up (these activities are most often undertaken within the hospital emergency department).
Button cell batteries, magnets and sharp objects - items particularly dangerous for the toddler's digestive tract
Special attention is required for small patients who have swallowed button cell batteries (most often they supply calculators, watches, hearing aids), magnets and sharp objects (needles, pins, pins). Such children usually require surgical treatment (much higher risk of complications than other foreign bodies), and in some cases in hospital observations.

How to protect your child from swallowing a foreign body?

To minimize the likelihood of a child swallowing a foreign body, there are a few basic rules to follow:

  • Make sure your toddler's toys are appropriate for his age - toy manufacturers define on their products the target age group for which the product is dedicated, and most importantly fully safe.
  • Make sure that the toys do not have small parts that are easy for the child to remove - curious toddlers are eager to take such parts in their mouths, which may end up swallowing them accidentally.
  • Make sure that the battery-operated toys have a properly secured battery compartment - the safest solution is when the battery compartment is secured by a flap screwed with a screw, for which a screwdriver is necessary to remove.
  • Protect shelves and other places at home where we store magnets, batteries, screws and other small items - a good idea are shelves secured with a key or special, closed organizers designed for storing small items.

In summary, children are usually very curious about everything that surrounds them and especially during early childhood tend to put different things in their mouths. This, in turn, can result in a dangerous accident requiring an urgent visit to the doctor. As a result, the toddler's contact with easy to swallow items should be as limited as possible, and in case of any accident, take your child to the pediatrician or hospital emergency department as soon as possible.

Bibliography:Pediatrics by Wanda KawalecInternal Szczeklik 2018/2019


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