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Watch: Surgeons remove a full toothbrush from a baby’s stomach

Children, especially newborns, toddlers, and preschoolers, are naturally curious. Everything they can get their hands on is something they want to touch, smell, and – yes, taste. When they swallow something that isn’t supposed to be eaten, their curiosity might lead to perilous scenarios.

The majority of items that a youngster swallows pass through the gastrointestinal tract without causing any problems. Some materials, such as button batteries, magnets, and sharp objects, can, nevertheless, cause substantial internal injury.

Ricardo Medina, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Children’s HealthSM and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern, offers advice for parents who believe their child has swallowed a foreign item.

What can I do if I think my child has eaten something?
When you look across the room at your little one and notice she has something little in her mouth, it can be a scary moment. It’s not always obvious if your youngster has ingested something. You might notice a minor thing gone, or your youngster may begin to exhibit warning signals.

Acute signs, such as abrupt drooling, vomiting, coughing, or chest pain, are the most common way for parents to identify if their child has ingested something.

If your child needs to be examined, take him or her to an emergency room.

You notice your toddler ingesting a button battery, a magnet, or a sharp object.
You believe your child has eaten a foreign item because he or she is exhibiting acute, dangerous symptoms such as:
* Abdominal pain or stomach ache
* Pain in the chest
* A sensation as if something is lodged in one’s throat
* Breathing problems
* Swallowing problems
* Drooling
* Throwing up
* Coughing
* Squeezing
Keep a watch on your child for at least 24 hours if you fear he or she swallowed a non-toxic foreign object, such as a little bead or coin, but your child does not develop acute symptoms. Objects can sometimes become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract without generating symptoms. Call your doctor right away if any of the following symptoms appear:

  • Drooling or vomiting
  • Squeezing
  • Not consuming any food
  • Coughing
  • Pain in the chest

Will my child need surgery to remove a penny or other object?

Some foreign things can easily pass through the digestive system. An object may also become lodged in the esophagus. In these circumstances, a doctor will need to perform an endoscopic operation to remove the object. Endoscopy is required if certain things are ingested.

“Button batteries or magnets – especially when there are multiple magnets – necessitate immediate endoscopy,” adds Dr. Medina. The esophagus and gastrointestinal tract of a youngster might be severely damaged by these things.

If the swallowed object is not a button battery or several magnets, and your child shows no symptoms, your doctor may recommend a “wait and see” strategy, with X-rays or other imaging tests to track the object’s journey. It normally takes one to two weeks for foreign items to move through the system. If the object has not been removed after four weeks, your child’s doctor may refer him or her to a pediatric gastroenterologist for further assessment. Endoscopic removal may be indicated depending on the item’s placement.

Endoscopically, how are foreign objects removed?
Items eaten by youngsters can usually be removed via an endoscopic technique. A thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera and light attached at the end is gently placed into the child’s mouth and into the gastrointestinal tract during this minimally invasive treatment.

The surgeon can see the gastrointestinal system as it passes through the esophagus and reaches the foreign item thanks to the camera and light. To carefully remove the thing, tiny equipment can be put into the tube. The gastroenterologist also looks for any damage in the gastrointestinal tract.

Dr. Medina encourages parents to look around the house at their child’s eye level to find methods to childproof the home throughout the year and at all ages. “You’ll notice things you hadn’t noticed before — items that need to be moved out of the room or out of reach of children.”

Make a point of keeping loose change out of reach. The most common things eaten by youngsters and requiring surgery are pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters.

Dr. Medina warns that certain times of year are more dangerous than others. “During the holidays, we see a lot of youngsters in the emergency room,” Dr. Medina explains. “Button batteries or small objects are found in many small toys, decorations, and even greeting cards.

It’s also crucial to keep in mind that emergencies can strike at any time. Even if you’re simply going to the restroom or into the next room, never leave your child unattended.

Dr. Medina’s final piece of advice is to continue talking to youngsters about the dangers of swallowing anything that isn’t food well into their teenage years.

“It’s important to remind teenagers about the dangers of swallowing poisonous chemicals,” Dr. Medina warns. “There’s no better time than now to talk to them about the perils of blindly pursuing the next damaging internet challenge or intentionally eating unsafe substances.” Every day, casual interactions with your kids help to establish an open relationship and let them know you’re there for them – even if they don’t want to hear it.”

Coins are among the most common types of currency.


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