The rate of young children swallowing foreign objects has nearly doubled over the past two decades.
Coins are the most common object children swallowed, according to “Foreign Body Ingestions of Young Children Treated in US Emergency Departments: 1995-2015,” (Orsagh-Yentis D, et al. Pediatrics. April 12, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-1988).
Researchers looked at ingestion trends using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 1995-2015. Their analysis included nearly 30,000 cases of children under 6 years treated at emergency departments (EDs) for foreign body ingestions (FBIs), which they used to estimate national figures.
Over the two decades, an estimated 800,000 children visited an ED after swallowing a foreign object, averaging 99 per day. About 53% of patients were boys, and 62% were children ages 1-3 years. Most ingestions occurred at home.
Rates of ED visits for these ingestions rose 91.5%, from 9.5 per 10,000 children to 18 per 10,000 over the study period.
About 62% of items swallowed were coins, 10% were toys, 7% were jewelry and just under 7% were batteries.
Rates of all four of these increased from 1995-2015, which authors said may be due to many factors, including increased household use of the items and improved reporting in the surveillance system.
Among hospitalized children, coins were the most common item swallowed (80%) followed by batteries (6%).
Button batteries can be especially harmful when swallowed as they can get caught in the esophagus and damage tissue. The Academy also has warned of the dangers of swallowing high-powered magnets that can attract each other within the body and cause serious damage to internal organs or death. Magnets made up about 2% of ingestion cases in the study.
Authors called for pediatricians to educate families about the dangers and for more research.
“Our study underscores the need for further research and continued efforts to prevent such ingestions, particularly within the home environment where FBIs most commonly occur,” authors wrote. “Recommendations for prevention of FBIs by both the AAP and NASPGHAN (North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition) include keeping such products out of children’s reach, ensuring that child-resistant packaging is used, and keeping particularly dangerous products off the market.”