Number of Kids Seen in ER for Swallowing Small Objects Doubles Over Past Two Decades
Cook Children's saw more than 470 patients last year for ingesting foreign objects
Last year, more than 470 children visited the Cook Children’s Emergency Department after swallowing “a foreign body.”
Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services at Cook Children’s, said not a day goes by that a child doesn’t visit the ER after ingesting a foreign body.
“The vast majority of swallowed objects pass without incident or treatment,” Dr. Warmink said. “The most common objects that must be removed are large coins (quarter or larger) because they won’t pass through the stomach and then button batteries and magnets due to the risk of intestinal injury when they are ingested.”
Dr. Warmink wasn’t surprised to see findings from a new study in the latest edition of the journal Pediatrics. Researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio looked at data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System about foreign body ingestions in children between 1995 and 2015.
The research found that over the 20-year period, ingestions doubled.
Seventy-five percent of ingestions were under 5 and coins (61.7%) were the most ingested items.
“It’s the same at Cook Children’s. Coins are far and away number one, along with beads, toys, buttons, nails/tacks, batteries and magnets,” Dr. Warmink said.
Button/disc batteries are the extremely dangerous due to the risk of corrosion. High powered small magnets are also a risk due to entrapment and erosion of the intestines. But many of the objects have the potential for harm.
“The initial danger is if the object gets stuck in the upper airway and causes the inability to breath or if it’s inhaled instead of swallowed and trapped in the lung,” Dr. Warmink said. “Once swallowed, an object may get trapped in the esophagus, which would cause the inability to swallow items. Swallowed objects very rarely cause obstruction in the intestines, but that is also a concern.”
Dr. Warmink adds any object that can fit through a toilet paper tube opening is a high risk item for swallowing. Children under school age should be monitored closely and never allowed to play with coins or toys with small pieces. Children from 6 months to 4 years are at most risk.
Warning signs to bring your child to the Emergency Department are wheezing, coughing, drooling, difficulty swallowing or sensation of object in the chest.