What to do if your baby has swallowed something

Babies learn about the world quickly, and in several different ways. One of their key learning mechanisms is by putting things in their mouths – taste and touch working in tandem. But every now and then, a baby will swallow whatever it is they are trying to learn about: and that can have disastrous effects.

Just a few years ago,  Michelle Truett lost her 1 year old son, Aiden, after he had swallowed a button battery. It’s a tragic story, but one that serves to highlight the need to be vigilant with young children as they get used to the world around them.

What should you do if you think your baby has swallowed something?

Most commonly there is little cause for concern. If the item swallowed is not sharp or dangerous in any way, your baby will probably pass the object naturally. There may be a wait for nature to take its course, and while waiting you should watch for signs of something a little more serious. Symptoms such as:

  • Vomiting or drooling
  • A refusal to eat
  • Sweats or a fever
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Whistling during breathing

If any of these symptoms rear their ugly head, or if the object hasn’t been passed in a couple of days, call your doctor immediately.

Doctor’s Orders

The doctor will take any one of a number of actions. For example, she may take an x-ray to see if the object can be located.

If she thinks that the object will pass safely through your baby, she’ll give instructions as to what you need to watch for while waiting. Then there may be further x-rays to check on progress.

Of course, an x-ray might give further clues as to what exactly was swallowed, and its position in the body. If there is any doubt as to safety, the doctor may remove the object herself; perhaps using an endoscope to reach into the baby’s oesophagus or stomach. On rare occasions surgery in hospital may be needed.

Be prepared for choking

If your baby starts choking, you may need to administer infant CPR. The best way to learn this technique is by taking a course specifically written for parents of young children.

Unfortunately, babies will be babies. They can’t help putting things in their mouths. Here are five things you must do while your child is learning:

  • Be watchful
  • Keep the most dangerous items out of reach (things like coins, marbles, nuts, small batteries, etc.)
  • Be careful of toys with small parts
  • Take extra care when visiting others’ homes
  • Be extra vigilant while on holiday

Finally, take that course which covers infant CPR. We hope that you’ll never need to use these new skills, but it always pays to be prepared.

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Household choking hazards