Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

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

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Swallowing and Parkinson's | Parkinson's Australia

Dysphagia is the technical term for chewing and swallowing difficulties. Systematic review of evidence estimates that dysphagia occurs in up to 80% of people with Parkinson’s. It is often unrecognised unless objectively assessed by the appropriate professionals.

Read more on Parkinson's Australia website

Button batteries

Button batteries are small disc-shaped batteries containing lithium, zinc silver, or manganese. They can cause serious burns if swallowed. They are also a choking hazard for young children.

Read more on WA Health website

Swallowing | enableme - stroke recovery and support

A stroke can affect the way you move food around in your mouth and how well you can swallow. Find resources and tips for living with dysphagia

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Kids' Health - Topics - Choking on food

Have you ever heard someone coughing while they were eating or drinking then afterwards saying "Oh that went down the wrong way?"

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

First aid for a choking adult or child over 1

How to manage choking in an adult or a child over 1 year old.

Read more on WA Health website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Choking on food and other objects

Choking is a risk for babies and young children. It is important to take care that your home (and any other place where your young child will be) does not have small things around that they can put in their mouth. Food can also be a choking hazard. It is also a good idea to do a first aid course so you will feel confident to cope with any accident that could happen to your child.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Choosing the right toys

Which toys should you give your child to play with? Your child has undoubtedly given you a few ideas already, but parents may not always be comfortable letting their kids choose their own toys

Read more on Parenthub website

Choosing toys

Toys play an important role in your child's development. Find out more about the safety concerns for infant's toys including the size, weight and materials.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Food - Baby's first foods | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

The introduction of solid food is an important stage in your baby's development

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Sore throat | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is a sore throat? Sore throats are a very common illness in infants and children

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo