What to do if your child swallows something

November 19, 2014 Whitney Carter, RN, BSN

With the holiday season fast approaching, the environments around us are about to change. Glitter, lights, tinsel, ornaments, decorations, new toys and many other exciting trimmings are bound to be a part of daily life for a while. It’s no doubt that kiddos will be curious about all of this new shiny stuff!

Many kids will likely explore these things with their mouths. Exploring the world by mouth is a normal part of development for babies, but what should you do if your baby or child swallows an object? The answer: stay calm and think! There are some situations in which your child will require the help of a doctor, however many situations can be managed from home. Many items are small enough to pass through the digestive tract and out in a bowel movement, and in this instance your child will likely have no symptoms. 

Here are the red flags to look for if your child swallows a foreign object. If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, seek medical help.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blueness around the lips
  • Coughing
  • Stridor (squeaking sound while breathing)
  • Difficulty talking or his voice sounds funny
  • Pain in the throat, neck or chest
  • Difficulty swallowing or food refusal
  • Drooling
  • Gagging
  • Vomiting
  • Your child swallowed a magnet
  • Your child swallowed a battery

Once you are at the doctor’s office or emergency room, the doctor may want to take an x-ray of your child to see if they can see where the foreign object is inside your child’s body. If it is safe for your child, the doctors may send you home and wait for the object to pass in his stool. In some cases, you may be asked to bring your child back for x-rays so they can follow the object until it is gone.

If the object is too large, or the doctor feels it is unsafe to leave the object, and it is still in the child’s esophagus or stomach, the doctor may remove the item. This usually involves using a small camera to see down the esophagus to where the item is located, catching the object and removing it. Your child would be asleep for this procedure.

If you suspect that the object your child has swallowed may be poisonous or harmful, call the poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Previous Article
June Altaras named Chief Executive of Swedish Seattle

Long-time Swedish leader also recognized as Puget Sound Business Journal ‘Woman of Influence’ SEATTLE – Nov...

Next Article
Ebola preparedness continues in Washington hospitals

Contacts: Joby Winans, DOH Communications Office (360) 236-4077 Clay Holtzman, Swedish Media Relations (206...