Swallowing Foreign Objects

Everyone has put something in their mouths that they’re not supposed to at some point in the life: marbles, dirt, or something. This habit usually happens when we’re children, still exploring things and still with the compulsion to use our mouths to do so. These two facts together usually make children more susceptible to swallowing foreign objects. There’s a little news article going around (August 21st) about a six-year-old who swallowed a set of magnet toys. He got sick pretty quick and needed surgery to remove them.

Now, when I say foreign object, I don’t mean “Made in China.” Just for anyone who needs clarification, a foreign object in terms of the human body is anything that’s not supposed to be there—such as swallowed toys. So all toys, not just those from China, are foreign objects to the body.

Moving on. If you know your child or friend or even yourself (not judging) has swallowed a foreign object, do not eat or drink anything unless given an OK by your doctor. If you need surgery to remove the object, you’re going to have to have an empty stomach or risk suffocating on vomit when they give you anaesthesia.

Speaking of vomit, trying to throw up the object is also a big “NO.” You can cause more damage to your stomach and throat by doing so. Or it could get stuck part way up and you may start choking.

Most object will pass through the system within 4 – 6 days, but if it hasn’t after two weeks, contact your doctor. You should, however, let them know if you’ve had severe stomach pains or bloody stools as soon as possible.

Now, there are a few objects in which the danger caused by the swallowed objects jumps considerably. Pointed objects such as toothpicks or bones are pretty obvious. They can cause big problems as they move through the system. The same goes with objects larger than 18mm. Magnets and batteries are a VERY BIG PROBLEM! Magnets can stick to each other throughout the digestive tract and get stuck while batteries can cause burns, severe bleeding, and even death.


As usual, it’s best to prevent these things before they happen. Teach your children not to point foreign objects in their mouths and resist the urge to do so yourself. Chew on something edible (gum, celery, food in general) if you need to. People need water in their life, try sipping on that instead. Anything to not risk swallowing something dangerous.

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