Swallowed (ingested) foreign objects

Children are inquisitive and it is very common for them to swallow things such as batteries, coins and small objects. Most objects that are swallowed travel down the digestive tract, which is made up of the oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestine and leave the body without any harm. Whilst some objects can cause issues and need help to be removed.

If your child swallows a magnet or a battery (from a watch for example) then they need to seek urgent medical attention.

Signs and Symptoms

Often children will show no signs after swallowing an object, however if they do they may have:

  • Trouble breathing / noisy breathing.xray_of_battery_in_throat
  • Trouble swallowing food.
  • Drooling.
  • Pain in the chest or neck region.
  • Irritable.

Theses symptoms usually occur when they are stuck in the oesophagus and you will need to seek urgent medical help.

If objects become stuck in the stomach or intestines, the child may have vomiting that is ongoing, abdominal pain, fever or have blood in their vomit or poo.

Objects can become stuck in the airway and may cause coughing and difficulty breathing.  You should seek urgent medical help if this occurs. *See Choking management.


  • On presentation to hospital, a doctor or nurse will assess your child and ask what your child has swallowed.
  • If your child is showing any symptoms of distress or has swallowed something that will show up on an X-ray then one will be performed.
  • Depending on what the child has swallowed will determine whether it needs to be removed or not.
  • Objects such as batteries and magnets will need to be removed urgently as they can harm the body and be life threatening.
  • Objects in the stomach or the intestine will pass on their own, whilst some objects in the oesophagus will need to be removed depending on your child’s symptoms.
  • Sometimes an X–ray is performed, if there is nothing found and your child has no symptoms, they can be observed at home.

Things to remember

  • Most children will pass the swallowed object and will not require any intervention.
  • You do not need to examine your child’s faeces to find the swallowed object.
  • Children usually do not require follow up X-rays.
  • Observe your child for any of the symptoms listed.

For further information on the dangers of lithium batteries, please visit www.batterycontrolled.com.au

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