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Researchers aren't sure why more children appear to be swallowing non-food items. But the alarming findings make this a good moment to read up on toy safety tips and choking hazards for children.
The number of kids under age 6 who sought emergency medical attention at a hospital after swallowing a foreign object almost doubled between 1995 and 2015, according to the study published in the journal Pediatrics. In 1995 there were 22,000 such visits, and by 2015 the number had jumped to 43,000 visits, the study authors concluded after analyzing data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
The most commonly swallowed objects were coins (usually pennies), toys (frequently marbles), jewelry (mostly earrings), and batteries. Luckily, about 90 percent of kids were discharged from the emergency department, but 1 in 10 had to be admitted to hospital.
Battery ingestions were an especially big problem, spiking 150-fold over the study period. Researchers believe this may be partly due to the proliferation of button batteries in household electronics – such as remote-controlled toys, TV remotes, calculators, and digital thermometers – over the years.
While many small objects end up passing through a child's intestines without too much problem, some can be very dangerous. Batteries can cause a chemical reaction in a child's body, leading to serious burns and perforations. Small magnets are another big danger, because if a child swallows two or more they could try to stick together, resulting in severe intestinal injuries.
What to do if your child ingests a foreign body
If you think your child has swallowed a dangerous item like a battery or magnet, or a sharp object such as a toothpick or needle, seek medical attention right away, even if she seems fine. If you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- Taking your child to the emergency room immediately
- Giving 2 teaspoons of honey within the first 12 hours if the child is over 1 year old and can swallow liquid. You can give up to 6 doses of honey about 10 minutes apart. (But don't give her more if she vomits, and don't delay going to the ER in order to obtain honey.)
- Refraining from giving your child anything else to eat or drink
Find more information here on what to do if your child swallows an object. Also learn about infant first aid for choking and CPR and first aid for choking and CPR for children older than 12 months.
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