Emergency physicians are warning parents about the dangers associated with young children swallowing objects like small batteries, coins and even magnets. Not only do they serve as potential choking hazards, but these foreign objects can cause severe internal damage as they pass through a child’s body.
“Items like these are small and shiny and attractive to young children,” said Dr. David Seaberg, with the American College of Emergency Physicians. “They are easily accessible to kids. Small batteries, for example, are often found in a child’s toy and from that child’s perspective, they can look like pieces of candy.”
A recent study showed that 65,000 children were taken to an emergency department because they swallowed batteries. This is a serious concern because those batteries can get stuck in the child’s esophagus or gastrointestinal tract, eroding it if they are not removed as quickly as possible. Many remote controls and toys use these types of batteries.
Neodymium magnets are small but powerful, and sold as “adult toys.” One magnet alone swallowed by a child can be dangerous, but if multiple magnets are swallowed, the danger can turn life-threatening. The magnets can attract each other inside the child’s body and pull together, trapping tissue in between. That pressure can cause internal damage serious enough to require surgery.
This concern doesn’t stop with young children. Physicians are seeing cases where adolescents and teenagers are ingesting them as well. They are using them to mimic jewelry piercings in the mouth and nose and accidentally swallowing them.
“Emergency physicians are experts at treating any pediatric emergency,” said Dr. Seaberg. “But we need parents to be aware of the dangers and work to combat this at home.”
- Know what your young children are playing with at all time.
- Keep all choking hazards away from them.
- Call 911 if necessary or take them to the nearest emergency room immediately if you suspect they may have swallowed something potentially hazardous.