Skip to Content

Foreign Body Ingestion in Children


  • Foreign body ingestion is the swallowing of an object other than food. This commonly happens in children aged six months to six years who tend to put things into their mouths. Once an object is swallowed, it may get stuck in the esophagus or get trapped in the stomach. Swallowed objects usually pass through the entire digestive tract and out of the anus (rear end) without problems. Foreign bodies may include coins, small batteries, pins, seeds, toothpicks, pieces of toys, or fish or animal bone.
    Picture of the digestive system of a child
  • Pain in the neck, throat, chest, or abdomen (belly) may be symptoms of foreign body ingestion. Your child may refuse to eat or have trouble swallowing, gagging, vomiting (throwing up). He may also have breathing problems, such as coughing or wheezing (high-pitched sound when breathing). Tests, such as barium swallow, computerized tomography (CT) scan, endoscopy, or x-rays may be needed for diagnosis. Treatment will depend on the object's type and size and how long it has been inside the body. Your child may need to have a procedure or surgery done to remove the foreign body. Your child's caregiver may suggest waiting until the object is passed out in your child's bowel movement. With treatment and care the foreign body will come out and more serious problems can be prevented.



  • Keep a current list of your child's medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list and the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Give vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's primary healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Ask before you change or stop giving your child his medicines.

Ask for more information about where and when to take your child for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services for your child, ask for information.

Bowel movement:

You may need to look in your child's stool every time he has a bowel movement. This is done if caregivers think that the object is likely to be passed out of his body. Walking can help get your child's bowels moving. Foods like fruit, bran, and prune juice can help your child have a BM. Drinking water can help too. Caregivers may give your child fiber medicine. Do not give your child other medicine, such as laxatives.

Preventing foreign body ingestion:

  • Do not leave your child unattended while he is playing with toys that contain small pieces.
  • Keep away small items that can easily be swallowed by your child. Store safety pins, buttons, coins, toothpicks, and beads out of your child's reach.
  • Teach your child not to put things into his mouth.

What to do if your child has foreign body ingestion:

  • Do first aid if your child is having trouble breathing. Do back blows and abdominal thrusts if your child is less than one year old. Do a Heimlich maneuver if your child is older. Ask your child's caregiver for information about how to do back blows, abdominal thrusts and the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Do not give your child any medicine or chemical, or try to make him vomit the object out. This may cause the object to get stuck in his airway.
  • Do not stick your finger or fingers into your child's throat to try to get the object out.

For more information:

Contact the following for more information:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians
    11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
    Leawood , KS 66211-2680
    Phone: 1- 913 - 906-6000
    Phone: 1- 800 - 274-2237
    Web Address:
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Boulevard
    Elk Grove Village , IL 60007-1098
    Phone: 1- 847 - 434-4000
    Web Address:


  • Your child has a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition, treatment, or care.


  • Your child has not passed out the object in his stool after 2 to 3 days.
  • Your child has abdominal pain or has blood in his bowel movement.
  • Your child is coughing, wheezing, or has noisy breathing.
  • Your child is vomiting, gagging, choking, drooling, has neck or throat pain, or cannot swallow.

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 (Discharge Care)

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.