The Number of Kids Going to the ER After Swallowing Small Objects Is Skyrocketing

NBC News

Kids these days -- always swallowing stuff. 

According to a new study published Friday in the journal Pediatrics, the number of young kids who required a trip to a US emergency room because they swallowed items such as toys, coins, jewelry, magnets, or batteries has almost doubled. 

The study indicated that there were nearly 43,000 visits in 2015 of that type among kids younger than 6, compared with 22,000 in 1995. That’s an increase from almost 10 per 10,000 ER visits to 18 per 10,000.

  • Although 90 percent of the cases did not require hospitalization, serious internal injuries and deaths have occurred.

    The most worrisome cases involve button-sized batteries and small, high-powered magnets that are usually sold as toys for adults or older children. 

    Kids swallow the small, powerful magnets which then attach to each other inside the intestines, making holes in the abdomen that can then lead to life-threatening blood poisoning. The small batteries, if swallowed, can set off a chemical reaction that can burn through tissue inside the throat.

    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued warnings in recent years warning of the dangers of these objects and called for the sales of some of the small magnets to cease.

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  • There have been many hospitalizations and at least one incident that led to the death of a toddler.

    Dr. Danielle Orsagh-Yentis -- lead author and a gastrointestinal physician at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio -- warns that kids who swallow batteries or magnets may vomit or experience abdominal pain and "should be brought to the emergency room as quickly as possible.”

    Orsagh-Yentis said that the upswing in these types of cases "rang some alarms” and suggested that modern technology could be a contributing factor.

  • She pointed to the fact that these potentially dangerous items are used in an increasing number of popular consumer items such as TV remotes, digital thermometers and remote-controlled toys.

    The trend in these types of cases piqued Orsagh-Yentis's interest when she recalled that, during her training, "we were all being called in in the middle of the night at odd hours to remove foreign bodies from either the esophagus or stomachs of children.”

    According to her research, she says that coins, batteries, and toys accounted for most of the nearly 800,000 children younger than 6 who were treated in nonfatal emergency room visits. 

    An injury prevention advocacy group is calling for more research into the rise of these cases, and is urging extra caution on the part of parents and caregivers. 

  • "Try to see the world from a child's point of view by getting on the floor so that you are at your child's eye level,” suggests Morag Mackay of Safe Kids Worldwide.

    “Keep small objects such as coins, batteries, magnets, buttons, or jewelry out of reach and sight,” said Morag, director of research at Safe Kids Worldwide.

    Important words to remember and a reminder to remain especially aware when buying gifts for young kids during the spring holidays.

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