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Children are curious and often put objects in their mouth and accidentally swallow them. These might be toys they were playing with or other objects they find, such as batteries or pills. If you know or suspect what your child might have swallowed, it can be helpful if you can take an example or any packaging with you to the hospital.
Sometimes you might not be sure if your child has swallowed something, or they might tell you but you haven’t witnessed them do it. If you think your child might have swallowed or choked on something, check for the symptoms in the Red Box and take them to A&E if they have any. Tell the nurse or doctor what you are worried about, let them know if you have any button batteries or small magnets in the house, and if any might be missing.
If your child has swallowed something else that is smaller than a sweet, isn’t sharp or possibly poisonous, you can watch them closely at home. Most objects will pass through the intestines without any difficulty. You do not need to check your child’s poos for the objects but watch closely for any of the features
If you think your child has swallowed pills or medicines:
If you think your child has swallowed household or garden chemicals:
Button batteries are small round, silver batteries found in lots of electrical toys and devices.
If your child swallows a button battery or you think they may have swallowed one, take them to A&E straight away.
As well as being a choking hazard, button batteries can cause internal burns, internal bleeding, and sometimes death.
They can also cause burns if they're lodged in a child's nose or ear.
Strong (rare earth) magnets are popular toys but can easily be swallowed by young children and can cause serious intestinal injuries. If you suspect your child has swallowed any magnets, you should take them to A&E.
Xrays can be taken that will help assess if your child has swallowed a metallic object and needs any other treatment.
If your child has any of the following:
Your child may require emergency treatment.
You should call 999 or take them to your nearest Children’s A&E where they can be assessed.
If you think your child might have swallowed something small that doesn’t have a sharp point (such as a coin or plastic bead), you do not need to take them to A&E immediately. Watch over the next couple of days for symptoms that might suggest:
You child does not seem to have any symptoms of serious illness or injury.
You can get general advice on the NHS website or from your local Pharmacy.
If your child develops any of the symptoms in the Red or Amber boxes above, click on that symptoms and follow the advice.
Most swallowed objects are harmless and will pass through the digestive system without causing any harm. Studies suggest that it takes about 3-5 days for the object to pass out into the stool (poo).
We do not routinely recommend looking through the stool to find the object, as this can be unpleasant and not helpful.
It can be challenging to always stop young children putting things in their mouth that they might swallow. However, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of accidents happening. You can learn about what objects are particularly harmful if swallowed and then reduce the risk of your child getting hold of these objects.
All batteries can be harmful if swallowed but button batteries are particularly dangerous. These batteries are flat and round, ranging from 5 – 25mm in diameter. Button batteries can get stuck in the oesophagus (food pipe) and cause permanent damage within hours. If your child has swallowed a button battery, bring them to the Emergency Department straight away. They might need to undergo a procedure to remove it.
(Button batteries are flat and round. These ones are about the same size as a 5 pence piece.)
Button batteries are found in many objects that you might have at home, including hearing aids, car keys, remote controls, weighing scales, musical greeting cards and some toys.
Click here for more information on button battery safety.
Magnetic ball toys are about 10 times stronger than traditional magnets. If a child swallows more than one of the magnetic balls, they can stick to each other inside the body and cause damage to the bowel and other structures that get caught in between. They can be challenging to remove, often requiring surgery to do so. If your child has swallowed one or more magnets, bring them to the Emergency Department straight away.
Click here for more information on magnetic toys.
Click here for information on toy safety.
Click here for information on choking prevention.
You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.
Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.
Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.
For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?
Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.
Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.
Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.
Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.
Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:
For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?
School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.
Contacting the School Nurse
Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.
All home educated children will have a named School Nurse.
Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.
They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-
Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.
The clinical team in GP surgeries include doctors, advanced nurse practitioners and nurses who are trained to assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP surgery team will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.
You have a choice of service:
If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.
Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.
A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.
Developed in Partnership with the Healthier Together Programme
Alder Hey Children's Charity