First Aid – Swallowing A Foreign Object

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Most commonly, small children are those who swallow objects. However, older children and adults can swallow certain objects.
Most commonly, small children are those who swallow objects.

Most commonly, small children are those who swallow objects. However, older children and adults can swallow certain objects. Commonly, objects swallowed include toys, buttons, bones, coins, safety pinks, wood, magnets, batteries, glass and other types of foreign objects. In most cases, when these objects are swallowed they take 24 to 48 hours to pass through the digestive tract and they do not cause problems.

However, there are times in which these objects can be stuck longer, and if they are sharp or cause carrion it causes issues. There are three areas in the body in which these objects like to lodge, all located within the oesophagus:

  1. At the level of the collarbone
  2. In the centre of the chest
  3. Just before the oesophagus opens into the stomach

There are times in which these objects can get stuck within the oesophagus in an area that has been previously injured.

Symptoms of a Swallowed Object

There are several signs that may show that the object is caught in the oesophagus. These symptoms include:

  • Inability to swallow
  • Painful swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Chest pain
  • Neck pain

When the object becomes caught in the intestines, the person may have abdominal cramping, bowel movements that are bloody and pain in the intestines. Most objects that do not cause any of these symptoms will pass through the digestive system within a day or two and will not cause any harm.


In order to prevent the swallowing of foreign objects, it is important to keep these types of objects away from small children. This is especially true for children who are under the age of three years old.


If a child has swallowed an object, you will need to call your doctor. Here are some of the things to remember:

  • Do no try to make the child vomit. The object can get lodged further in the throat.
  • Do not panic – remain as calm as possible.
  • Do not panic and assume that surgery is needed.
  • Do not try to remove the object on your own, as you could cause further damage.

You need to call a professional immediately if:

  • The child has swallowed a battery, even if there are no symptoms. The doctor may need to do an x-ray to ensure that this is not stuck in the digestive tract
  • The child swallows something sharp as these can injure the stomach, intestines and oesophagus
  • If 24 to 48 hours pass and you still do not see the object pass, call the doctor as it could mean the object is lodged somewhere in the body

Related Video On Choking

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