Foreign Body Ingestion In Children


Foreign body ingestion is when an object becomes stuck in your child's esophagus (throat). Coins, button batteries, small toys, and screws are commonly swallowed objects. A piece of food or a fish bone can also become stuck in your child's esophagus.


Look for the object in your child's bowel movements:

Search for the coin, battery, or other small, smooth object each time your child has a bowel movement. Do not give your child laxatives or stool softeners.

Prevent foreign body ingestion from happening again:

  • Never leave any small item anywhere your child can reach it. This includes coins, earrings, small toys, batteries, and magnets.

  • Teach older children to keep small toys away from babies and toddlers. Marbles are especially easy for babies to swallow.

  • Keep nails and screws away from young children. Count them before and after you finish a project.

  • Keep medicines in childproof containers.

If you think your child has ingested a foreign body:

  • Do not stick your finger into your child's throat to try and remove an object. This could push the object even deeper.

  • Do tell your child to cough if he is old enough to understand. He may be able to cough out the foreign body.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or gastroenterologist as directed:

Follow up is usually only needed if the object does not pass through your child's intestines on its own. You may need to return if the object swallowed was unusual or if complications occurred. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Contact your child's primary healthcare provider or gastroenterologist if:

  • The foreign object has not come out after 2 to 3 days

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child's vomit is bloody.

  • Your child's bowel movement is black or bloody.

  • Your child has chest or abdominal pain.

  • Your child is choking.

  • Your child has trouble swallowing or breathing.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Foreign Body Ingestion In Children (Aftercare Instructions)