Site Map

Foreign object - inhaled or swallowed

Obstructed airway; Blocked airway

If you breathe a foreign object into your nose, mouth, or respiratory tract, it may become stuck and cause breathing problems or choking. It can also lead to inflammation and infection.

If you swallow a foreign object, it can get stuck along the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This can lead to an infection or blockage or tear in the GI tract.

Images

Lungs
Heimlich maneuver on adult
Heimlich maneuver on an adult
Heimlich maneuver on oneself
Heimlich maneuver on infant
Heimlich maneuver on infant
Heimlich maneuver on infant
Heimlich maneuver on conscious child
Heimlich maneuver on conscious child

I Would Like to Learn About:

Considerations

Children age 1 to 3 are most like to swallow or breathe in a foreign object. These items may include a coin, marble, pencil eraser, buttons, beads, or other small items or foods.

Causes

Young children can easily breathe in certain foods (such as nuts, seeds, and popcorn) and small objects (such as buttons and beads). This may cause a partial or total airway blockage.

If the object passes through the esophagus (food pipe) and into the stomach without getting stuck, it will probably pass through the entire GI tract.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

Sometimes, only minor symptoms are seen at first. The object may be forgotten until symptoms such as inflammation or infection develop.

First Aid

FOR AN INHALED OBJECT

Any child who may have breathed in (inhaled) an object should be seen by a doctor. Children with obvious breathing trouble may have a total airway blockage that requires emergency medical help.

If choking or coughing goes away, and the child does not have any other symptoms, he or she should be watched for signs and symptoms of infection or irritation. X-rays may be needed.

Bronchoscopy may be needed to confirm the diagnosis and to remove the object. Antibiotics and breathing therapy may be needed if an infection develops.

FOR A SWALLOWED OBJECT

Any child who is believed to have swallowed a foreign object should be watched for pain, fever, vomiting, or local tenderness. Stools (bowel movements) should be checked to see if the object has passed through the body. This may sometimes cause rectal or anal bleeding.

Sharp objects, such as pins and screws, usually pass through the GI tract without complications. X-rays are sometimes needed, especially if the child has pain or the object does not pass within 4 to 5 days.

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) may be needed to confirm the diagnosis and remove the object. This procedure involves placing a tube through the mouth into the GI tract.

In severe cases, surgery may be needed to remove the object.

Do Not

DO NOT force feed infants who are crying or breathing rapidly. This may cause the baby to inhale liquid or solid food into their airway.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call a health care provider or local emergency number (such as 911) if you think a child has inhaled or swallowed a foreign object.

Prevention

Preventive measures include:

Related Information

Respiratory
Abdominal thrusts

References

Cukor J, Manno M. Pediatric respiratory emergencies. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al., eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 168.

Munter DW. Esophageal foreign bodies. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2009:chap 39.

Thomas SH, Goodloe JM. Foreign bodies. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al., eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 60.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 1/12/2015  

Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2016 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com