Children are ingesting this dangerous object more and more every year

The rate at which children ingest foreign bodies has risen about 92% during the 21 year study period and is continuing to increase by about 4% annually.

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A study published Friday in the Journal of Pediatrics announced the rate that children swallow foreign objects has been rising sharply over the last 21 years.

Children under the age of six accounts for 75% of all foreign body ingestion cases and 20% of one to three years olds have swallowed some form of a foreign body or another. The bulk of foreign bodies ingested, like pennies and Christmas ornaments, for instance, can be successfully discharged, with very little if any lasting effects.


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Magnets and button batteries are particularly harmful. When button batteries become lodged in the esophagus, they increase PH and trigger chemical reactions that result in serious caustic damage. When multiple magnets are ingested, they attract across gastrointestinal walls, leading to perforation, necrosis, sepsis and sometimes even death.

The rate at which children ingest foreign bodies has risen about 92% during the 21 year study period and is continuing to increase by about 4% annually.

Data and methods

Danielle Orsagh-Yentis, Rebecca J. McAdams, Kristin J. Roberts, and Lara B. McKenzie are the researchers behind the new report, which began with a retrospective analysis of data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System for children six years old and younger.  

Between 1995 and 2015, 759,074 children were determined to have been evaluated for foreign body ingestion in emergency departments. Boys were found to ingest foreign objects more frequently than girls, as they made up about 52% of all the cases reviewed. As stated previously, most of the items swallowed were able to be successfully discharged, fortunately.  Coins were ingested more than any other object (61.7%), then toys (10.3%), followed by batteries (6.8%).

Button batteries were the most common batteries ingested. The potentially fatal body is in “everyone’s house, whether they realize it or not,” notes the study’s lead author and Pediatric Gastroenterology Motility Fellow at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, Dr. Danielle Orsagh-Yentis.

On balance, battery consumption has increased 150-fold in the two-decades-long study period.  The continued surge in foreign object ingestion can only be guessed at, though the researchers believe the spike might be due to electronics becoming more prevalent in homes every year. People might just be having FBI evaluated more meticulously.

Because so much tissue damage can be enacted by the chemicals in batteries so quickly (as quickly as two hours in fact) the researchers stress the necessity for diligent surveillance-parents should especially be on the lookout for magnet and battery consumption  Orsagh-Yentis, explains, “That means keeping them at elevated locations so the children can’t get to them as easily, keeping them in secure locations and, particularly, keeping them out of children’s sight so they’re not even thinking about them.”


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CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.