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Swallowed object treatments

2-minute read

There are a number of things you can do if you (or your child) have swallowed a foreign object.

  • Do not eat or drink anything until you have spoken to a healthcare professional. This is in case you need to go to hospital where the object may need removing - you will need an empty stomach.
  • It is very important not to try to make yourself vomit as this could cause choking or block your airway.
  • You should check any bowel movements you have for the object. It will usually pass within four to six days. If you have not found the object in your stools (poo) after two weeks, visit your doctor for further advice. You should also speak with your doctor if you have any abdominal (stomach) pain or vomiting or you notice blood in your stools.
  • If fruit pips or very tiny objects have been swallowed there should be no need to search your stools.

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

You should also go to the nearest emergency department for an assessment if the object was large (for young children, this means larger than about 18mm across).

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. This can cause:

  • trouble breathing
  • coughing that won’t stop
  • wheezing (or a whistling sound while breathing)
  • drooling or bringing up saliva
  • loss of consciousness.

If you or your child has these symptoms, call for emergency help: triple zero (000).

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 straight away.
  • Find out more about self harm.

Last reviewed: November 2017

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