What Should I Do If My Child Swallows an Object?

What Should I Do If My Child Swallows an Object?

Last update: 25 June, 2018

If your child swallows an object, the first thing you should do is stay calm and verify what the child swallowed.

Swallowing an object can be a relatively trivial incident during childhood. As a parent, you must not panic, however, you should act quickly in the exceptional cases that require medical assistance.

In most cases, you don’t have to panic, if there are no negative symptoms, you may not need urgent medical attention.

The foreign body will most likely be expelled naturally between 24-48 hours. In some cases, it can take up to 5 days.

Parents can also go to the hospital in order to perform an X-ray that will help locate the object in the child. The whole situation depends on the size and shape of the object swallowed in relation to the child’s age.

Keep in mind that only objects that are located in the esophagus and those that have a size that is incompatible with transit through the digestive tract will be extracted through an endoscopy.

In most cases, if there are no negative symptoms, it means that there is no urgent medical emergency. It’s always best to consult your pediatrician regardless. If they ingest a toxic object, contact a doctor immediately in order to avoid complications.

What should you do if your child swallows an object?

In cases where the child doesn’t speak or is presenting respiratory difficulty, apply the following tips:

  • Stand behind the child and place your arms on their chest.
  • Tilt the child forward at waist level, until their upper airway reaches a position that is parallel to the floor.
  • With your other hand, give the child five firm blows between their shoulder blades.
  • If the object doesn’t become dislodged, form a fist with one hand and place it above the child’s navel. Place your other hand above your closed fist and give it 5 firm hits.
  • Continue with the previous cycle until the object gets dislodged or until the child begins to breathe or cough.
  • If the child loses consciousness, seek emergency medical assistance.
  • Perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation if you know how to.
  • If the child can talk, calm them down and ask them about the object they swallowed.
What Should I Do If My Child Swallows an Object?

Things you should avoid if your child swallows an object

  • Don’t panic. You have to keep calm despite the anguish and anxiety. This will help keep your child calm and it will allow you to act effectively.
  • Don’t try to extract the object with dangerous maneuvers. These maneuvers are destined to fail.
  • Don’t try to make the child vomit. You may cause the child to inhale gastric content.
  • Don’t give them liquids. This may move the ingested object and turn it into a total obstruction if it was only a partial obstruction previously.

“The foreign body will most likely be expelled naturally between 24-48 hours. In some cases, it can take up to 5 days.”

When should you go to the hospital?

Be alert if your child swallows a foreign object. The following cases require medical attention:

  • Neck or throat pain.
  • If the child coughs and breathes with difficulty due to the object that is lodged in their respiratory tract.
  • If the child vomits or has stomach pain.
  • When the child cannot swallow their saliva.
  • If the object swallowed was a battery, magnet or a pointed object.
  • If the child’s skin turns blue or pale.
  • Any other suffocation symptoms.

How can you prevent your child from swallowing an object?

  • Don’t allow them to play with small objects.
  • Supervise the child during meals and cut their food into small pieces.
  • Introduce solid foods in their diet.
  • Teach the child how to eat calmly, without talking while their mouth is full and how to chew properly.
What Should I Do If My Child Swallows an Object?
  • Don’t allow your child to walk, run or play with food or objects in their mouth.
  • Children under the age of 4 shouldn’t eat foods that they cannot eat easily such as candy, popcorn, or whole nuts.
  • Your child shouldn’t be fed when they’re crying.
  • Make sure their toys are ideal for their age. Their toys should not contain small pieces.

In conclusion, you’ll have to keep in mind that most objects that are swallowed by children are eliminated through their feces one or two days after the child swallows it.

Therefore, it’s enough to observe their stool to make sure they’ve expelled the object. Sometimes the expulsion of the object can take up to 3 weeks.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.