What to Do When a Child Swallows a Foreign Object


objectsAs a parent, keeping the house safe for your child is always a priority. With your kid’s curious and adventurous antics however, it’s not uncommon for your child to find themselves in a sticky situation.

In the U.S., 100,000 cases of foreign body ingestion (swallowed objects) are reported each year and the majority is with children between six months and three years old. At Renown Health, we see children weekly that have swallowed a foreign object.

Do I Go Straight to the Hospital When My Child Swallows a Foreign Object?

Luckily, our bodies are resilient to many external forces, and most swallowed objects will pass without harming your child. Only between 10 and 20 percent of swallowed objects need to be removed.

Just to be safe, contact your child’s physician as they will be able to direct you on helping your child and will tell you right away if you should bring your child to the hospital. Sharp or long objects, magnets, and batteries require immediate attention and your child should be taken to the hospital immediately.

If your child is choking, only perform the Heimlich maneuver if you know how and if their airway is completely blocked. You will know it is blocked if your child is unable to breathe, cough or talk. If air is able to move past the object however, coughing will often loosen it from the esophagus and the Heimlich maneuver is not recommended. If your child is under one, do not perform the Heimlich maneuver in either situation. If you know how, rescue back blows are recommended for children this young.

After the Object Has Moved to Your Child’s Stomach or Digestive Tract

    • Seek medical attention if your child has abdominal pain or is vomiting. Do not induce vomiting. This may cause your child to choke.
    • Check for the object after your child goes to the bathroom. If the object has not passed within seven days, seek medical attention.
    • Call your doctor if you find blood in your child’s stool, or if they begin coughing up blood.

If you child has swallowed a battery, call the Swallowed Button Battery hotline at 1-202-625-3333 or your local poison control number at 1-800-222-1222.

To sign up for a CPR class, visit REMSA’s class schedule.