Home > Kids > Childhood Safety > Home Safety > Swallowed Objects
|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Swallowed Objects

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Henry Bernstein, M.D.

Q: My two-year-old swallowed a penny. How long should it take a child his age to pass it? Should I take him for X-rays if I don't see it soon?

A: Your child is in the most common age range for swallowing a foreign body. Most of the problems with foreign bodies arise when they get wedged in the swallowing tube called the esophagus. Although round objects like coins rarely make a hole in the swallowing tube, problems can begin when there is long-standing contact.

Looking for where the foreign body might be in the GI (gastrointestinal) tract is important if your child has obvious symptoms such as choking, painful swallowing, chest discomfort, or cough. Fortunately, coins are made with radiopaque material, so they can easily be seen on Xray. Even if your child does not have any symptoms, it is still often recommended that an Xray be done to be sure it is not stuck somewhere along the way. Any object in the esophagus must be removed regardless of whether the child has symptoms or not.

Once in the stomach almost all coins will move through the GI tract and pass on their own. Parents can be reassured that straining of stools is a reasonable approach to finding the foreign body; it usually will be seen within 24 to 48 hours, regardless of age. If the coin has not passed on its own, some suggest using an enema to help move things along. If it were still in the stomach by four weeks, it would need to be removed electively.

More on: Expert Advice

Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

highlights

7 Tips to Childproof Your Smartphone
Before you hand over your smartphone or tablet, follow these childproofing tips to help keep both your child and your device safe.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

11 Survival Tips for Summer Boredom
When the kids are home all day, every day, summer boredom strikes hard and fast. Learn the best summer boredom busters for children of all ages.

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks