Don't put that in your mouth

May 29, 2013 Kathleen Goetz, MD

Most parents have experienced a child swallowing something that was not intended to be put in the mouth. Most of the time it turns out to be okay, but not always.  It is always a good idea to check in with your doctor or Poison Control (800-222-1222).

When to worry and what to do if your child swallows...


Detergent pods – such as Tide or Cascade
These packets may look like candy but can cause lots of problems, and symptoms may be delayed for 1-3 days: 

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach aches. 
  • Burns to the mouth, throat, esophagus and stomach. 
  • Scarring or perforation of the esophagus and stomach. 
  • Burns to the cornea of the eye.


  • New “rare earth” magnets such as Buckyballs have stronger attractive properties
  • Attraction across different areas of the stomach and intestines can cause blockages and perforations
  • Kids may use magnets on the tongue or lips to simulate piercings
  • Any magnet can cause problems
  • Symptoms may be delayed   

Button batteries

  • Button batteries are now more common and have stronger voltage, causing more damage
  • They may stick in the throat they cause breathing problems
  • They may stick in the esophagus where they cause swallowing problems, burns and perforations
  • Symptoms may be delayed

Medications or Chemicals
The effects depend on the type and the amount.  Damage may be delayed and may be serious. 

  • DON’T give Ipecac or induce vomiting unless advised to do so by a doctor or Poison Control.
  • DON’T wait, call Poison Control as soon as you know or suspect – 800-222-1222


Most coins, pushpins, earrings, nails, tacks, Barbie shoes and legos pass through the system without causing any problems.  But a few get stuck and don’t always cause symptoms. Here's what you should know: 

  • If your child is having worrisome symptoms such as trouble breathing, call 911.
  • If your child reports the sensation of something stuck in the throat, the next step is an xray so come on in!
  • Even if your child seems fine, call your doctor or Poison Control for advice.

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