Swallowed objects spark rise in tot ER visits

Maricruz Casares
Abril 14, 2019

The number of young children who went to USA emergency rooms because they swallowed toys, coins, batteries and other objects has almost doubled over the past two decades, a new study says. On the basis of those cases, researchers estimated that 759,074 young children visited the ER for foreign object injection during this two-decade timespan.

"While coins were the most frequently swallowed object, batteries are of particular risk because they can do considerable damage when ingested", Orsagh-Yentis said by email.

"The dramatic increase in foreign body injuries over the 21-year study period, coupled with the sheer number and profundity of injuries is cause for concern", stated Danielle Orsagh-Yentis, the lead author of the study.

Her research team analyzed a nationwide database of non-fatal emergency room visits for children younger than age 6.

Orsagh-Yentis noted that an increasing number of consumer products use potentially unsafe button-sized batteries, including TV remotes, digital thermometers and remote-controlled toys, which likely contributed to the increase.

Pennies are the objects most likely to attract curious toddlers, who swallow the coins, and are then rushed to the hospital.

The vast majority - 97% - of the cases occurred at home, which the authors said is probably due to the accessibility of the types of objects.

Roughly one-third of the cases involved kids under two years old, the study also found.

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The study analyzed a USA database of non-fatal emergency room visits for children under 6 and found almost 800,000 children were treated for swallowing items between 1995 and 2015.

The CPSC also has warned about dangers from button-sized batteries, which when swallowed can trigger a chemical reaction that can burn holes through tissue inside the throat.

Batteries and small high-powered magnets, sometimes marketed as desk toys for adults, are among the most unsafe items kids have put in their mouths. "Children are constantly exploring and understanding their environment by feeling things with their lips and mouths".

Doctors say that's in part because kids have more access to button batteries, now found in many electronic devices.

Parents need to be especially cautious with button batteries and powerful magnets, said Dr. Lois Lee, an emergency medicine physician at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Children who swallow batteries or magnets may vomit or complain of abdominal pain.

A child plays with a toy. "These are often very small, and if dropped on the ground, may not be very visible".

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