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US Emergency Rooms See Spike In Children Who Swallow Coins, Toys: What To Do If Your Child Swallows Foreign Object

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Cases of foreign-object ingestions among young American children has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. Child safety experts advise parents and caregivers to always keep an eye out for signs of accidental swallowing.   ( Tim Kraaijvanger | Pixabay )

Health and safety experts in the United States are alarmed at the rise of foreign-body ingestions cases among young children over the past two decades.

The number of children under the age of six accidentally swallowing foreign objects more than doubled in a span of 20 years. From a low of 22,000 recorded cases in 1995, it ballooned to 43,000 in 2015.

The rate at which such accidents occurred also increased from nearly 10 for every 10,000 ER visits in 1995 to 18 per 10,000 ER visits in 2015.

These findings are featured in the journal Pediatrics.

Foreign-Body Ingestions Among Young Children

Dr. Danielle Orsagh-Yentis, an expert on gastrointestinal conditions at Ohio's Nationwide Children's Hospital, led a team in investigating foreign-body ingestions among American children. They looked at nearly 800,000 cases over a 20-year period.

Here are some of the study's findings:

  • More than half (53 percent) of cases of ER visits involved young boys.
  • More than three-fifths (62 percent) of patients were children between 1 to 3 years old.
  • The most frequent foreign objects swallowed by children are coins (61.7 percent), followed by toys (10.3 percent), jewelry (7 percent), and batteries (6.8 percent).
  • The most common coins ingested by children are pennies (65.9 percent).
  • The most common batteries ingested are button batteries (85.9 percent).

While a majority (89.7 percent) of patients were later sent home without hospitalization, there have also been cases where children suffered serious internal injuries and even death.

Batteries and high-powered magnets were two of the biggest threats to children's safety because of their potential to cause serious injuries.

Button batteries are small enough to easily be swallowed by young children. These devices can get lodged in the patient's esophagus and burn holes right through the organ. This can result in chronic breathing problems and infections.

Meanwhile, a small number (2 percent) of foreign-body ingestion cases involved high-powered magnets. If two such devices were to enter the body, they could attract each other and pinch the intestines. This could prevent the normal flow of blood and cause severe damaging of the organs.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has already issued strong warnings on the continued use of button batteries and magnets in consumer products.

Child safety advocates urged parents and caregivers to always stay vigilant when looking after children. They should make sure that small objects, such as batteries, buttons, coins, jewelry, and magnets are out of the sight and reach of kids.

What To Do If A Child Accidentally Swallows A Foreign Object

There are several signs that parents should look out for to know if their child accidentally swallowed a foreign object, according to advise website Being the Parent.com.

If the foreign object was able to reach the child's stomach, chances are it will also pass through the colon and later expelled along with their stool.

However, if the object gets stuck in the victim's esophagus, it could cause the following symptoms:

  • Drooling or dropping saliva continuously from the mouth
  • Having difficulty in swallowing food or drinks
  • Vomiting
  • Experiencing pain in the chest or neck
  • Suddenly developing fever

If the object gets lodged in the stomach or intestines, it could cause vomiting, tummy aches, and abnormal bowel sounds. It could also damage intestinal walls, resulting in bloody stools.

Health experts recommend calling a doctor immediately if a child accidentally ingests a foreign object. It is not advisable for parents or caregivers to force victims to vomit or give them laxatives to push the object out of their system. It is also not a good idea to have them gulp food.

Doctors will have victims undergo an X-ray or endoscopy to find out where exactly the object is located. They will then determine what medicine can be given to help patients poop the object out.

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