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ER Visits For Kids Swallowing Small Objects Has More Than Doubled Says Study

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Researchers have discovered a worrying trend. The number of young children who are brought to the emergency room after swallowing a small object has doubled.

In 1995, 22,000 children under the age of 6 were brought to the hospital after swallowing toys, coins, batteries, and other small objects. In comparison, in 2015, the number jumped to 43,000.

More Young Children End Up In Hospital For Ingesting Small Objects

Researchers from the Nationwide Children's Hospital analyzed the data on non-fatal emergency department visits of children due to ingestion of a foreign body from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. They found that more than 759,000 children who are under the age of 6 have been evaluated by doctors for swallowing a small object between 1995 to 2015.

The rate of foreign body ingestion grew from 9.5 per 10,000 children in 1995 to 18 per 10,000 children in 2015. The researchers estimated that 118 children per day end up in emergency rooms for foreign body ingestions.

Children between the age of 1 and 3 years old make up 62 percent of all cases.

The researchers also identified coins as the most frequent object that children are putting in their mouths and accidentally swallowing. It is followed by toys, jewelry, and batteries.

Although batteries make up a small percentage of the cases, the researchers warned that ingesting the item carries the biggest risk. Over the 21-year period, the researchers said that the number of children swallowing batteries grew 150 times, and button batteries, which are small and found in everyday items including toys, represent 85 percent of the cases.

Only 10 percent of all children who were brought to emergency room visits for foreign object ingestion were admitted to the hospital for longer observations.

Guardians Should Be Vigilant

"The dramatic increase in foreign body injuries over the 21-year study period, coupled with the sheer number and profundity of injuries is cause for concern," stated Danielle Orsagh-Yentis, the lead author of the study. "Continued advocacy and product regulations are needed to keep children safe, and the data shows that vigilance, advocacy and regulations are effective."

The researchers told parents to immediately go to the hospital if their children have ingested a foreign object, especially batteries or magnets.

Morag Mackay of Safe Kids Worldwide said that more research is needed to find out why cases are increasing. In the meantime, she said guardians should be more vigilant of the objects around their children.

"Try to see the world from a child's point of view by getting on the floor so that you are at your child's eye level," she stated. "Keep small objects such as coins, batteries, magnets, buttons or jewelry out of reach and sight."

The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.

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