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Swallowed Object in Children

What is it?

  • Children put things into their mouths and sometimes swallow them. This is common in children between 6 months and 4 years. Swallowing an object is usually not harmful to your child. Some children may vomit (throw up) the swallowed object. Most objects pass easily through a child's body without problems.
  • Coins are a common swallowed object for children. Foods that children may choke on are nuts, carrots, apples, and candy. Children under 2 years do not chew these foods well so should not eat them until older.

Signs and Symptoms: Your child may have neck or throat pain or problems swallowing. Vomiting, choking, coughing, or noisy breathing may be other signs that your child has swallowed something. Your child may say that he has abdominal (belly) pain.

  • Care:
  • The swallowed object may be stuck in your child's throat or airway and must be removed. Call 911 or (O) operator for help if your child is choking and has the following signs or symptoms.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Blue lips or skin turning a dusky color.
    • Not able to speak or make other sounds.
  • Your child's care depends on the size of the swallowed object and where it is. Once the object is in the stomach, it usually will pass through the body without problems. Passing the object may take many days but it could take 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Your child may need to go into the hospital for tests and treatment. An object that gets stuck in the esophagus (food tube) must be removed as soon as possible. The following tests or treatments may be done to find the object.
    • X-rays of the chest and abdomen.
    • Bronchoscopy (bron-kah-skuh-p).
      • This is a test that may be done to look inside your child's airways and lungs. Your child will get medicine to make him sleepy before this test is done. Caregivers use a bronchoscope (bron-kuh-skop) to do this test. It is a long tube with a light and magnifying glass on the end.
      • The tube goes into your child's mouth and into the lungs. It may be possible to remove the object during this test. Your child will stay in the hospital until awake and breathing easily. He may have a sore throat after the test.
    • EGD: This test looks at the lining of your child's esophagus (e-sof-uh-gus), stomach, and duodenum (dew-o-d-num). These organs help digest food. Your caregivers may be trying to find the swallowed object. A scope is put in your child's mouth and into his stomach and duodenum. The scope is a long tube with a magnifying glass and light on the end. A camera may be hooked to the scope and pictures of these organs may be taken.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. To help with this plan, you must learn how swallowed objects in children are treated. You can then discuss treatment options with caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat your child. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

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