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Watch Out for Swallowing Dangers

Just when you thought you had the house totally child-proofed—dangerous toys banished, poisons and pills safely tucked away, baby gates everywhere—along comes another new study highlighting the dangers of things you might not even have thought of. So our family practice doctors in Delray Beach thought you should be aware of the risks this study revealed.

Published last month in the journal Pediatrics, the report found that between 1995 and 2015, more than 775,000 children under the age of six—an average of 99 a day—were taken to emergency rooms for items they had swallowed. In addition, the annual rate nearly doubled over the 20-year study period, increasing from 9.5 out of every 10,000 children in 1995 to 18 out of every 10,000 in 2015.

Behind the numbers

Researchers used the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, administered by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), to gauge the number and types of foreign-body ingestions (FBIs) by young children.

Boys were somewhat more likely to swallow objects than girls, at a rate of 53 percent vs. 47 percent. Boys also tended to swallow such items as nails and screws, while girls were more likely to swallow jewelry and hair products.

The most common FBIs also contained subcategories of most frequently swallowed items:

  • of coins: pennies
  • of toys: marbles
  • of jewelry: earrings
  • of batteries: button batteries

Just 10 percent of children seen at the ER required hospitalization, mostly for those who swallowed coins.

Most dangerous FBIs

The second-highest category of hospitalizations were required for children who swallowed batteries. Button batteries, the study authors warned, can become lodged in the esophagus, causing a type of injury similar to a burn.

Although this study did not look at liquid laundry packets, an earlier study found that from 2012 through May 2015 the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported more than 33,000 calls—representing 30 children a day—for children who had ingested the candy-look-alike pods. The CPSC reported that children who consume laundry pods can experience loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, severe eye burns, and temporary vision loss.

Magnets pose an entirely different serious risk. As CBS News recently reported, “While swallowing a set of any magnets can be dangerous, safety experts are particularly concerned about high-powered rare earth magnets.”

This category of magnet, sold under such names as Buckyballs, Zen Magnets, and Neoballs, are from five to 10 times stronger than typical refrigerator magnets.

The CPSC reported the 2012 case of a three-year-old girl who swallowed 37 Buckyballs. The magnetic balls snapped her intestines together, ripping three holes in her lower intestine and one hole in her stomach. One 19-month-old girl died after swallowing magnets.

What you can do

Because young children learn by touch and by putting things into their mouths, we recommend keeping the most common FBIs safely out of their reach. Better still, in the case of those high-powered magnets, don’t even bring them into the house.

In addition, take a new look at common items around the home that you may not have considered before, like office supplies, including paper clips, hobby items like tiny model airplane parts, and pet toys containing jingle bells. Because the study revealed that 97 percent of ER visits for FBIs were from things found in the home, please see us for more suggestions on how to keep your child safe there

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