BC toys for down syndrome
If not supervised, children are at risk of swallowing small metallic pieces such as a piece of a toy or a coin, a cardboard piece such as a component from a jigsaw puzzle or plastic toy piece. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Household accidents, resulting in foreign body (FB) penetrations in the ear, nose, throat or eyes, are not uncommon. In fact, they have more than doubled in the last two years worldwide. And it’s not just children, adults too are at a risk.

FB refers to any organic or inorganic piece entering the human body accidentally through an external impact. This could range from small metallic pieces such as a piece of a toy or a coin, a cardboard piece such as a component from a jigsaw puzzle or plastic toy piece. Quite often, inquisitive children playing with small components of toys, tend to ingest those — particularly if those components are colourful.

Symptoms of foreign objects depend on the location of the item in the body. Objects in the nose and ears block an individual’s upper respiratory tract, making it difficult to breathe or hear and in case it is ingested, there is a threat of the FB being embedded in the lower respiratory tract and even the lungs, triggering inflammation and infection.

Children also tend to swallow coins or put pieces of toys or a piece of chalk through their nose, which again is a very challenging situation.

In the UAE, several cases of magnetic pieces being swallowed by toddlers have been reported. This can have serious consequences such as respiratory distress or abdominal swelling.

Foreign body ingestions are quite common among children younger than six years old but of late, older children have been victims too.

How adults end up in trouble

FB-related mishaps are not limited to children. Many adults using ‘DIY’ (Do It Yourself) kits to fix their furniture or while indulging in gardening, carpentry etc that involve the use of a hammer or a motorised equipment, are also at high risk.

Nail and hammer
Adults working with tools for household work are also at risk of FB penetration. Image Credit: Shutterstock

In the case of adults, doing small chores at home such as fixing a screw or using a sharp instrument or handling a minor carpentry work can result in a tiny fragment flying in the air and getting embedded in the eye, ear, nose or throat, or even going through the fine skin of the fingers.

Doctors warn that all foreign body penetration, however small it may be, needs to be treated as an emergency owing to the complications it can trigger, such as respiratory block, asphyxiation, blinding or even choking to death.

It is advised that one should not tamper much with the FB if one encounters such a situation and rush to the Emergency section of the nearest hospital to seek expert medical intervention.

A victim’s experience

Pakistani expatriate Anwar Hussain would have been blinded in one eye had he not been rushed to Emergency.

A store keeper in Sharjah, Hussain, 37, was fixing a machine at home when he met with an accident. Hussain recounted: “It was around 9pm. I was trying to fix a faulty drilling machine, while seated on my bed. Suddenly, something sprung up and hit my left eye. It was excruciatingly painful and blood began oozing out from the eye,” he said.

Dr Bhoopathy Murgavel , specialist ophthalmologist from Aster Qusais with patient Anwar Hussain-1659592786177
Anwar Hussain with Dr Boopathy Murugavel, Image Credit: Supplied

Hussain’s roommate immediately rushed him to the Emergency section of Aster Hospital, Al Qusais. The critical care team referred him to Dr Boopathy Murugavel, specialist, Ophthalmology, at the hospital who retrieved the FB and saved Hussain’s left eye.

Surgery to save vision in the eye

The removal of the metallic object was a challenge. Fortunately, the foreign body had not touched his retina.

“A minute scar or injury to the centre part of the retina, or the cornea, could have resulted in complete loss of vision. Metallic objects retained in the eyes undergo a chemical reaction and can lead to irreversible vision loss. Hussain was lucky as he came in time to the Emergency section and did not attempt to remove the FB himself,” said Dr Murugavel, who removed the FB through surgery.

Hussain was discharged the same day. He is doing fine since then.

What to do if you have an FB episode?

• Do not try to remove the FB and rush the patient to the Emergency section of a hospital.

• If there is bleeding, try and cover loosely with a bandage without putting any pressure on the site of the injury.

• If the FB is stuck in the mouth and the person is choking on it, then it is best to thump the person’s back to get it expelled. However, do not put off a visit to the Emergency.

Dos and Don’ts:

• Never keep toys with smaller components at home where there is an infant. If that component can fit into the palm of a child, then the chances of it getting into the mouth, nose or ear are very high.

• Magnetic toys have been banned. If you have these, please discard as their ingestion can be fatal for toddlers.

• While doing any kind of work such as fixing a screw, drilling, or using a carpenter’s saw, make sure you wear comprehensive protective gear that covers the eyes and face and use gloves to cover the hands to prevent potential FB injury.

• When a foreign body is embedded in the eye, do not try to extract it or use over-the-counter eye drops that could further complicate the condition. Instead, consult an ophthalmologist.