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Swallowed object

It’s easy to accidentally swallow something you shouldn’t, especially if you’re a child.

If you or your child swallow a foreign body, it will probably be okay. Most small non-toxic items will progress through the body without problem and be passed in stools (poo).

The following objects usually cause no problems:

  • small stones or pebbles
  • pips or stones from fruit
  • teeth (if they’ve been knocked out)

You should go to the nearest emergency department for an assessment if you or your child has swallowed magnets or batteries (including flat batteries).

You should also go to the nearest emergency department for an assessment if the object was large.

Things which are pointy – like toothpicks or broken chicken bones – very occasionally cause problems. They may seem okay at first, but can cause problems within a day or two in the bowel. If you or your child has swallowed something sharp and pointy, you should speak to a doctor or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

Coughing or breathing troubles

Occasionally, something which has been swallowed can cause a blockage or swelling of the airways.

You should go to the nearest emergency department if you have been advised to do so, or if you, or your child, have:

Read more about treatments for swallowed objects.

Swallowing objects deliberately

Some people may swallow objects deliberately to harm or injure themselves. If you have done this, you should know you are not alone and help is available. Please discuss this with a healthcare professional.

Find out more about self harm.

Last reviewed: July 2015

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