Swallowed object

Young children often put small objects, such as marbles, batteries, pins, or coins, in their mouth. These objects may then be swallowed. Although this can be frightening, it is not always cause for concern. Most often, the object will pass through your child's system without harm.

But a foreign object may become stuck in the esophagus (food tube) or trachea (windpipe). In that case, your child needs prompt medical care.
When to go to the Emergency Department (ED):

When to go to the Emergency Department (ED):

Contact your child’s doctor if you think your child has swallowed a nonfood object. Do not try to remove the object yourself. This may cause more harm.

Seek emergency help if your child:

Seek emergency help if your child:

  • Has trouble breathing, speaking, or swallowing
  • Is spitting up saliva or is vomiting 
  • Has chest pain, stomach pain, or pain when swallowing
What to expect in the ED:

What to expect in the ED:

  • A doctor will ask about the swallowed object and perform a physical exam
  • X-rays will likely be taken to help locate the object
What is the treatment:

What is the treatment:

Treatment will depend on the type of object and where it is located. Your doctor may suggest one of the following measures:

  • Watchful waiting: A smooth object that has not gotten stuck may pass on its own in 24 hours
  • Removal with esophagoscopy: To remove an object and check for any damage, an esophagoscope (a lighted, telescope-like tube) may be used. The instrument is pushed down into the esophagus through the mouth. Your child will be given medication so he/she sleeps through the procedure.
What is the follow-up:

What is the follow-up:

Call your child’s doctor or return to the ED if your child:

  • Is nauseated or vomits
  • Has stomach pain or bloody stools  
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Trauma

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514-412-4499, Emergency Department (for patient transfer) / 514-412-4399 (fax)