Medical Q&As

Accidental swallowing - what to do?

My 5-year-old daughter has just swallowed a piece of plastic jewellery. It is an open ring with a metal heart shape. Should I do anything?

Young children frequently put small objects in their mouths and swallow them. In the vast majority of cases the object simply passes through the digestive system and is passed with the stools. Assuming that your child is not experiencing any discomfort or distress it is perfectly reasonable to do nothing and simply wait for nature to take its course. You should check the child’s stools to confirm that the object has been passed. That might take a few days because it can take several days for non-digested material to pass from the mouth to anus. If you do not detect the plastic ring in the child’s stools over the coming days it would be reasonable to bring her along to your GP. However, I stress that most of these objects are passed in the stools even those that might be jagged or sharp. Do not under any circumstances give your child a laxative to force the expulsion of the object. Neither should you attempt to induce vomiting in the child. Either course of action could inflict an injury on the child, which would not otherwise have happened had things been left alone.