Often considered trivial, cases of children swallowing foreign objects can actually endanger the child’s life. There are a number of foreign objects that if swallowed can be dangerous. Children, especially under 5 years of age, are susceptible to incidents of swallowing foreign objects.
Ariani Dewi Widodo, a specialist pediatrician-consultant, said that the symptoms of children swallowing foreign objects vary, such as difficulty swallowing, pain in the throat or chest, choking, wheezing, or excessive salivation.
“Sometimes foreign objects are not always safe [when swallowed]. There are certain effects that can sometimes be dangerous,” said Ariani in a webinar with the Indonesian Pediatrician Association (IDAI) on Thursday (9/11).
According to Ariani, there are a number of foreign objects that are dangerous when swallowed and require immediate medical action.
Batteries, especially coin batteries, are usually used in certain clocks or toys. Due to its small size, the battery is vulnerable to being swallowed by children.
Ariani explained that batteries can be dangerous due to two factors, namely the diameter and material of the battery. Batteries with a larger diameter increase the risk of irritation of the esophagus area, while battery materials in the form of lithium cells trigger higher voltages.
Batteries will trigger tissue injury due to the formation of hydroxyl radicals. This injury can kill the tissue or mucosa.
“New batteries have more than 3 times the risk of injury compared to batteries that have run out,” he added.
Magnets can be very dangerous when swallowed, especially if there are two or more. When a child swallows two or more magnets, this condition is considered an emergency.
“Magnets attract each other and can clamp the tissue in the middle so that the tissue dies. The dead tissue can then become perforated causing digestive contents to come out. This is a life-threatening condition,” explained Ariani.
Another case that is no less serious is when a magnet penetrates an organ, for example, the stomach, then sticks to the intestines and forms a ‘bridge’ so that the two organs are connected.
Sharp objects such as needles rarely stick in the esophagus or digestive organs. In the case of swallowing a pin, the sharp part does not stick because what is underneath is the round part.
“However, once a pin entered the stomach. When the stomach contracted, it stuck and entered the duodenum,” said Ariani.
Coins and other blunt objects
Cases of children swallowing coins are quite common. The coins that are often swallowed are the thin Rp. 1,000 coins and the old Rp. 500 coins.
Coins can be dangerous because they will block the throat or esophagus.
“Last month, a child swallowed a new Rp. 50 coin. It was light and small. Usually things that are very light are not easily swallowed,” he said.
Liquid objects that are dangerous if swallowed include kerosene, caustic soda, detergent solution, soapy water, and battery water or sulfuric acid.
This liquid can damage digestive tract tissue. Broadly speaking, there are two types of liquids, namely acids and bases. Acidic liquids such as sulfuric acid will quickly trigger a reaction when swallowed.
In contrast to acidic liquids, alkaline liquids do not trigger reactions quickly, for example, dishwashing soap, detergent water. The reaction only occurs after some time.
“The liquid comes into contact with the tissue, a soapy reaction occurs or causes the tissue to melt. The tissue is already badly damaged but it is not detected in the first second. The damage continues even though the fluid is no longer in contact with the tissue,” said Ariani.