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First Aid Guide: Foreign object swallowed

Team AckoJul 28, 2023

If you swallow anything unusual, it will normally pass through your system unnoticed considering it being small. However, certain objects might become lodged in the oesophagus, the tube that joins the mouth and stomach. They can also obstruct the airway and induce choking. Here’s a guide regarding various First Aid procedures for encountering foreign objects swallowed.




What is the meaning of ‘Foreign Object Swallowed’?

‘Foreign Object Swallowed’ is caused by the unintentional swallowing of a foreign object. The object may become trapped in the neck or food pipe, resulting in an emergency medical crisis. In many situations, the ingested object reaches the stomach and, if it is tiny enough, is evacuated out of the body via faeces. However, in almost all circumstances, it is essential to seek the advice of a healthcare professional.

Foreign objects are inedible items that young children inadvertently consume. However, it can happen to adults too. These objects cause blockages in the food pipe or oesophagus. These can sometimes induce holes in the stomach wall. If the child is asymptomatic, no immediate treatment is required. However, if symptoms are apparent, immediate removal of the object is the only option.

Some ingested things pass through the body normally and get expelled through faeces. 

These things are usually harmless and include the following.

  • Tiny pebbles or stones

  • Fruits seeds

  • Teeth (If  they have been taken out)

However, certain objects can be extremely harmful if swallowed. These are some examples.

  • Large objects that are longer than 6 cm or broader than 2.5 cm

  • Magnets, particularly one or more magnets

  • Lead-based objects

  • Button batteries (they can cause significant harm or death by burning through the lining of the food pipe)

  • Marbles

  • Pins or other sharp objects

Symptoms of foreign objects swallowed

Symptoms in the case of foreign objects swallowed are usually very apparent. If the object restricts the airway, you will have symptoms right away. The following are the most prevalent symptoms.

  • Choking

  • Wheezing

  • Coughing

  • Breathing difficulty

  • Pain in the chest, neck, or throat

  • Face turning blue, red, or white

  • Trouble in swallowing

If a child ingested an object easily and it did not become trapped inside their throat, there may be no apparent symptoms. However, symptoms will appear if the body has difficulty passing the object.

When an object becomes lodged in the oesophagus or colon, the following symptoms may occur.

  • Vomiting

  • Gagging

  • Abdominal discomfort

  • Drooling

  • Blood in their vomit or stool

  • Refusal to eat

  • Fever

When an object remains in the body for an extended period of time without being treated, it can cause an infection, such as recurrent aspiration pneumonia. This can cause chest pain, a phlegmy cough, and wheezing. A fever may accompany these symptoms.

Quick action: First Aid for the foreign objects swallowed

When a foreign object becomes trapped in the throat, it is best to cough without interfering. If the airway has been closed by the object, or if the person is having difficulty breathing and coughing, use a five-and-five strategy to deal with the problem until medical help arrives.

If the person is experiencing trouble breathing

  • Perform five back blows 

  • Perform five abdominal thrusts 

  • Alter between five blows and five thrusts till the obstruction is removed.

If the victim is obese or pregnant

  • Do not do the Heimlich manoeuvre by pressing on the abdominal region; instead, press on the centre of the victim's chest and squeeze it.

If you're doing abdominal thrusts on yourself

  • Place your hand slightly over your navel. With the other hand, make a fist and lean over a hard surface. Move your fist inward and upward until you dislodge the object from your airways or till help arrives. Once the object has been removed, examine the area for any symptoms of inflammation or discomfort.

If the choking person becomes unconscious

  • Place the individual's back on the floor and arms to the sides.

  • If you can see the thing, insert your finger inside the mouth and sweep it out. If you can't see the thing, never sweep the object with your finger because it may push the obstruction more into the airway. This is especially dangerous for young children.

  • If the airway remains closed, do chest compressions. If the airway is clear and you need to apply rescue breaths. Limit yourself to two rescue breaths per cycle. Check the mouth for the object on a frequent basis.

Preventing foreign object ingestion

Instructing caretakers about foreign-object ingestion can help protect children in their care from ingesting non-edible objects.

Prevention measures may include the following.

  • Cut food into tiny pieces for small kids so that it will be convenient for them to chew. Teach them proper chewing techniques.

  • Avoid talking, laughing, or playing with food in your mouth while eating.

  • Children under the age of three should not be given potentially hazardous items. 

  • Keep the smaller objects out of young children's reach.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about First Aid for foreign objects swallowed.


What should I do if I swallow something?

If you have swallowed something, then you should refrain from eating or drinking anything until you discuss your situation with a healthcare practitioner. This is because if you need to go to the hospital and the object needs to be removed, you may be required to be on an empty stomach. It is essential not to attempt to make someone vomit because this could result in blocking the airway.

When should I be worried about a swallowed object?

If your child is suffocating or refuses to eat or drink, has stomach pain, vomiting, bloody faeces, or coughs constantly, consult a doctor. If the object hasn't passed in three days and your child is getting sick, see a doctor. 

What happens if you swallow a hard object?

In many circumstances, the swallowed object gets cleared by the digestive system and eventually exits the body. However, in other situations, the object may become lodged or cause harm as it travels through the body. If this occurs, you must seek medical attention.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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