A foreign body is any object that should not be swallowed because it cannot be digested, or because it is too large to pass through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Such objects may include anything from batteries, coins, pins and jewelry to holiday decorations, tree ornaments and toys, as well as food or candy that is too big to pass into the stomach.
There are four areas where the esophagus narrows. Many foreign bodies can get stuck in these narrowings of the esophagus, often without any initial symptoms or discomfort. If left in the esophagus, the object may shift and/or move, block the airway or impair breathing, and/or damage the surrounding tissue. Batteries, coins and sharp objects are examples of foreign bodies that are the most frequently ingested and present a special concern.
Disk/button or AA and AAA size batteries can leak their caustic contents and seriously burn the esophagus if lodged there.
These are large enough to block breathing if they become dislodged from their position, and if not removed, may result in the perforation (breaking through) of the esophagus.
These include pins, broken toys, broken glass, etc., and can easily become stuck in the GI tract because of their sharp edges and result in injury.
In addition to the possibility of blockage and mechanical injury, all foreign bodies have the potential to "slip down the wrong pipe" and enter the lungs. This occurrence, called aspiration, may result in choking, coughing and difficulty breathing. Large pieces of food, hard candy and balloons present a special aspiration hazard for young children. If someone is choking, call your emergency medical services number (911 in many areas).
Call The Poison Control Center anytime your child (or pet) swallows a foreign body. In most cases, an X-ray is needed to determine the location of the object. You will need to examine the stool to make sure the object has passed.
Call our 24-hour toll-free emergency hotline