It’s practically a rite of passage for parenthood…that moment when your child swallows something they’re definitely not supposed to swallow. In fact, a recent study showed that over 759,000 children under the age of 6 ended up in the emergency room between 1995 and 2015 after swallowing objects.

What weird objects are kids swallowing?

The object that was swallowed most often was (unsurprisingly) coins. Toys were second, jewelry third, and batteries took fourth place.

Interestingly, boys were more likely to end up in the E.R. than girls. Researchers also found that children who were only 1 year old are the most likely to swallow foreign objects. That means around this age, parents will want to be extra vigilant, so they never have to utter the words, “You swallowed what?!”

Why is my child trying to swallow random objects?

It’s not surprising that so many kids end up swallowing something other than food…kids love to use their mouths to explore the world!

The act of children and babies placing EVERYTHING (!!!) into their mouth is referred to as “mouthing.” This is how they learn to develop and sharpen their senses—and, give parents extra anxiety…

How do I know if my child swallowed something?

Your baby may show no symptoms if they swallowed a foreign object or odd item. However, some telltale signs and common symptoms if they swallowed a foreign object include:

  • Coughing
  • Drooling
  • Bloody saliva
  • Gagging
  • Fever
  • Refusal of food, and even vomiting

How long can it take for a baby to pass something they swallowed?

If your infant has swallowed a foreign object, but is showing no symptoms, then the good news is that most foreign objects will pass through harmlessly. Usually, the object will pass within three days, but make sure to check every stool during that time frame to be sure.

Should you seek medical attention?

Luckily, when it comes to many small inanimate objects, children can usually pass the object through a bowel movement within a few days. However, if your child is vomiting, having trouble breathing, or experiencing stomach pain, they should be taken to the emergency room. In the instance that your child swallows a battery, immediate emergency medical attention is required, as batteries can cause chemical burns.

You should also call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 800-498-8666

As with any medical concern, always consult your child’s physician or dial 9-1-1 in case of an emergency.

Steps to Prevent Swallowing Objects

To keep your child from swallowing objects in the first place, make sure to childproof when possible. If you have a junk drawer—and let’s be real, who doesn’t?!—use handy magnets like these to keep the drawer closed. That way, even when your child learns how to open drawers, they can’t get into the one with loose change and tacks.

For small toys, try to choose ones that don’t have small detachable parts. That’ll help you worry less about your child swallowing a part of the toy…and it’ll make clean-up easier!

Always keep batteries in a secure location that children cannot reach like a high shelf with a magnetic lock on it.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.