Lost and Found: What to Know if Your Child Swallows an Object

Coins, jewelry and even button batteries can be irresistible to children who will put almost anything in their mouths.

“If you think your child will never swallow something, it’s always a possibility,” warned Elizabeth Trumann of Saluda.

Elizabeth’s three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Brooke, scooped up coins that had fallen out of the dryer. While it’s a family routine to deposit found coins in the piggy bank, when Brooke tugged at her mom uttering the words, “Money, money,” Elizabeth had a sinking feeling.

Stay Calm

“The most important thing is to stay calm and identify what your child has swallowed,” said Michelle Kiser, MD, a pediatric surgeon with Mission Children’s Hospital.


The greatest risks of swallowing an object, though uncommon, are that it will either block or cause a hole in the digestive tract called a perforation.

Most objects not lodged in the esophagus normally pass with no trouble. Those that are trapped or could cause more serious complications should be removed.

Signs It’s Stuck

As Brooke started to vomit, her parents knew they needed to act. Brooke was transported to the nearest hospital and then on to Mission Children’s Hospital where Dr. Kiser could help.

Other signs an object is stuck include excessive drooling, chest pain, irritability or refusal to eat, all signaling it’s time to call your pediatrician.

A Closer Look

“X-rays identify most objects and their location,” said Dr. Kiser. “They help us decide whether to remove the object or wait for it to pass.”

Found It!

Dr. Kiser removed the nickel blocking Brooke’s esophagus using a minimally invasive technique and a flexible tube with a lighted camera. Tools fitted to the end of the scope helped retrieve the misplaced nickel.

“I was scared, but I knew we were in a place where they could take care of us,” said Elizabeth.

Act Fast!

If your child swallows anything other than food, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

For button batteries, immediately call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at (202) 625-3333, while you are traveling to the emergency room.

For all other objects, call your pediatrician.

For more information about the pediatric experts at Mission Children’s Hospital, visit missionchildrens.org.

Michelle Kiser, MD, is a pediatric surgeon with Mission Children’s Hospital.

By Cheri Hinshelwood