Swallowed Foreign Body (Child)

It’s common for children to put objects (foreign bodies) in their mouths. Common objects that children swallow include small toys, marbles, screws, safety pins, coins, batteries, or pieces of glass or plastic. Whether or not the object moves all the way through the digestive tract depends on many factors. This includes the size and shape of the object, whether the object is sharp and pointy, and what the object is made of. In general, if the object has passed to the stomach or further in the gastrointestinal tract, there is no need for removal and it will pass on its own. Swallowed button batteries and multiple magnets are exceptions to this. They often need to be removed as they could cause damage to the digestive tract if left in place.

Based on your child’s evaluation, your child does not need treatment at this time. The swallowed object is expected to move through your child’s digestive tract and pass out of the body in the stool with no problems. This may take several days. If imaging tests were done, you will be told when the results are ready and if they affect your child’s treatment.

Home care

  • Follow the healthcare provider's instructions about what your child should eat and drink. In certain cases, your child may need to eat only soft foods and drink liquids for the first 24 to 48 hours.

  • You will need to check your child’s stool for the next several days. This is so you can confirm that the object has passed. If the object does not pass during this time, it may mean that the object is stuck (lodged) somewhere along the digestive tract. In such cases, the object may need to be removed with a procedure.

Prevention

  • Keep small objects that could be swallowed away from your child. These also carry the danger of choking and blockage of the air passage.

  • Check toys often for loose or broken parts.

  • Check each room in the house often for small objects such as buttons, coins, and toy parts.

  • If your child is old enough, teach him or her not to put objects in the mouth.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as advised. You will be told if your child needs further treatment. In certain cases, your child may need to return to have imaging tests done.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if your child:

  • Has belly pain, cramps, or swelling

  • Won’t stop coughing

  • Has trouble swallowing or pain with swallowing

  • Won’t stop vomiting

  • Can't pass stool

  • Fever (see Fever and children, below)

Call 911

Call 911 if your child:

  • Has trouble breathing or wheezing

  • Has trouble speaking

  • Has an unusually fast heart rate

  • Has new or worsening chest pain

  • Is vomiting blood (red or black)

  • Has blood in the stool (dark red or black color)

Fever and children

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For babies and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Baby under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

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