Every year, thousands of children are brought to emergency departments due to swallowing small objects such as batteries, magnets and coins. Young children may find these small, shiny and colorful items attractive. They can either play on them or put them inside their mouth. Aside from the risk of choking, these small objects can also lead to severe internal damage as they pass through the body. Foreign objects such as batteries and magnets contain hazardous substances that pose risk to child’s health.
These tiny objects are easily accessible to kids. For example, small batteries are often found in toys, remote controls, electronic gadgets, and other household items; their attractive coating can make them look like pieces of candy. No wonder, around 65,000 children receive first aid and emergency care every year because of swallowing batteries. Ingested battery poses a myriad of serious health risks. The batteries to get stuck anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, or intestine) and lead to gastric erosion. It can also cause gastrointestinal obstruction and buildup. There are battery types that contain harsh chemicals that can react with the body, especially if they are not removed as quickly as possible.
Older kids love to play with neodymium magnets. For young children, these ‘adult toys’ are a real health risk. Swallowing even one of such magnets can be dangerous for a child. If multiple magnets are swallowed, the effects are magnified and can even be life-threatening. Once the magnets are inside the body, they can attract each other and pull together, causing the tissues in between them to be trapped. This pressure can lead to internal damage that may require surgery.
This concern is true not just among young children. There are few cases of older kids and teenagers accidentally swallowing them as well. Adolescents use them as an alternative to jewelry piercing in the nose and mouth and accidentally ingest them.
Here are some tips to help prevent accidents that involve swallowing small objects:
- Make sure that your child’s play area is free of clutter.
- Do not give young children battery-operated toys and equipments. Choose age-appropriate toys that passed safety standards.
- Keep household items that use battery away from children’s reach.
- Check your living room, bedrooms and other places where child stay, especially under chairs and tables, for batteries and other similarly small items.
- Do not allow older children to play with neodymium magnets.
- Always check your child while playing. Know what they are playing with.
- Keep all choking risks away from children’s reach.
- Call 911 or your local emergency phone number if you suspect your child has swallowed something potentially dangerous.