It’s a potentially life-threatening assault on the body; the penchant children have for putting objects into their mouths.
Dubai-based Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital recently revealed that the list of children who suffered from serious digestive or respiratory conditions grew longer in 2021.
It said that more than 50 operations were performed last year to remove foreign objects from a child’s body; that is one case per week. And this year, there have already been nine cases of children swallowing small objects such as marbles, buttons, earrings and magnets.
It’s not just a UAE-based problem; In the US, explains Dr Vinay Vyas, Specialist Paediatric Prime Medical Centre, the number of incidents affecting those under 18 crossed 16,000 between 2000 and 2020.
Doctors call for vigilance amid the spike of such incidents. “Parents must be extremely attentive to where small, harmful objects can be found around their homes,” said Dr Safeena Kherani, Consultant in Paediatric Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, in a press release.
If you suspect your child has swallowed a toy/magnet, rush the child immediately to the nearest hospital’s urgent care section.
Dr Anuradha Ajesh, Specialist – Paediatrics at Bareen International Hospital, says: “If you suspect your child has swallowed a toy/magnet, rush the child immediately to the nearest hospital’s urgent care section. Do not assume that a swallowed magnet will be passed naturally.”
“Often, a child would not have any symptoms immediately when they have swallowed a toy/magnet,” warns Dr Ajesh. She adds: “But at times, they may have trouble swallowing food, or there may be drooling, or they may have pain in the chest or neck.”
Dr Christos Tzivinikos, Gastroenterology Consultant with the Aerodigestive Service, says that button batteries are exceptionally small and easy to swallow. He explains. “When reacting to bodily fluids, such as saliva or mucus, these batteries can create a strong chemical reaction in the throat or stomach, leading to severe internal bleeding and a host of other issues.
Batteries and magnets can burn through the oesophagus within two hours.
When reacting to bodily fluids, batteries can create a strong chemical reaction in the throat or stomach.
Magnets may attract each other and trap intestines between them.
“Any swallowed object can get trapped in the oesophagus before reaching the stomach, requiring expert medical treatment at a specialised aerodigestive hospital to ensure safe removal. Batteries and magnets can burn through the oesophagus within two hours, meaning early detection is often the difference between a quick and complete recovery and long-term consequences.
“If trapped in the stomach, the toy/magnet may cause a child to feel uneasy or to feel some pain in the stomach and may cause vomiting or fever. If the foreign material has damaged the digestive tract of the child, there may be blood in the stool or saliva. In some cases, swallowed objects may get trapped in the food pipe and may not pass through,” adds Dr Ajesh.
Besides, she adds, magnets may attract each other and trap intestines between them, causing an obstruction.
Dr Vyas lists the following indications of a foreign object in a child’s system:
- pain in abdomen,
- breathlessness, or
- vomiting blood.
Don’t do this
If you believe your child has swallowed a foreign object, don’t do this:
- Try to get the child to vomit.
- Eat or drink things while waiting for professional help.
Kids are notorious for exploring the world with all the senses at their disposal – with a help from the guardians, the discoveries can be made in a safe space.
Have a topic you'd like us to cover? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org