It is the swallowing of an object that is not food. It is a fact that it can occur at any age but it is more frequent between 12 months and 3 years. The child, driven by his curiosity and desire to know everything around him, puts all objects in his mouth and, in an oversight, can ingest them .
The objects most often ingested by children are coins, pins, button batteries, marbles, and toy parts.
Of all the foreign bodies that are accidentally swallowed by children, 80% are spontaneously eliminated in the feces because they pass through the digestive tract without difficulty.
The risk associated with the ingestion of a foreign body depends on its size, shape, composition and where it is located. When they are sharp or pointed objects, they have a higher risk of producing a perforation in the digestive tract.
When the foreign body is lodged in the esophagus, it can cause chest pain, difficulty swallowing, cough, refusal of food and increased saliva (sialorrhea). In cases of perforation, the child will have a bad appearance, fever and even a septic picture.
Objects left in the stomach usually give few symptoms except if they pierce the gastric mucosa , which causes a serious situation and very intense pain.
The first test that is performed on the child is an x- ray , since metallic objects can be seen where they are located and how big they are.
In most cases, the objects that are swallowed are oval, with blunt and small edges, so they will not cause problems and will be expelled in the stool in three or four days, helped with a diet rich in fiber .
In the case of batteries, sharp and/or sharp objects, the presence of pain, blood in the stool or, if the foreign body has not come out in a reasonable time , other types of techniques should be used.
The most widely used technique for removing foreign bodies is endoscopy . It is a simple treatment that also allows us to see how the mucosa of the digestive tract is; that is, we can know if the object has caused any damage to the esophagus, stomach or small intestine. To perform this test, the child must be completely anesthetized.
About 60% of objects are in the stomach at the time of diagnosis. In children under 3 years of age, objects less than 3 centimeters long can pass out of the stomach without problems. Larger, sharp or sharp objects must be removed.
20% of foreign bodies remain anchored in the esophagus. It is a particularly dangerous situation since these objects can be aspirated and pass into the trachea or perforate the esophagus and damage the nearby organs : the aorta and the trachea. In these cases, rapid removal is very important.
In the case of ingesting button batteries, it must be taken into account that they contain highly toxic and corrosive substances (mercury, zinc, silver oxide, sodium or potassium hydroxide, lithium…). If the battery is opened, it can burn and necrotize the mucosa , producing a perforation. The battery must be removed urgently by endoscopy.
The best treatment is prevention, not putting objects within the reach of the child or infant that, due to their small size or toxicity, could be swallowed. You always have to look at the recommended age on the toys we buy for children.
The supervision of the game by the adult and maintaining security measures at home are key to avoiding this type of situation.