Foreign body (swallowed)

This advice sheet has been written for safety netting advice after your child has had an initial review by their GP, nurse or hospital doctor for their swallowed foreign body.

If your child has any of the following:


  • If your child is drooling more than normal
  • If your child develops noisy breathing, difficulty breathing, has blue lips or a new cough
  • If your child is choking or coughing when eating or drinking
  • If your child is refusing food or eating less than usual
  • If your child starts gagging, vomiting or retching
  • If your child develops severe pain
  • If your child has blood in their stool
  • If your child becomes confused or is difficult to wake

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following:


  • If your child develops mild pain
  • If your child has a fever
  • If your child has not passed stool for >1 day when you would normally have expected them to do so

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today.

Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111 - dial 111

If none of the above features are present.

Self care

Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111 – dial 111

Most swallowed objects are harmless and will pass through the digestive system without causing any harm. Studies suggest that it takes about 3-5 days for the object to pass out into the stool (poo).

We do not routinely recommend looking through the stool to find the object, as this can be unpleasant and not helpful.

It can be challenging to always stop young children putting things in their mouth that they might swallow. However, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of accidents happening. You can learn about what objects are particularly harmful if swallowed and then reduce the risk of your child getting hold of these objects.


Button Batteries

All batteries can be harmful if swallowed but button batteries are particularly dangerous. These batteries are flat and round, ranging from 5 – 25mm in diameter. Button batteries can get stuck in the oesophagus (food pipe) and cause permanent damage within hours. If your child has swallowed a button battery, bring them to the Emergency Department straight away. They might need to undergo a procedure to remove it.

button batteries 1.jpg 

 (Button batteries are flat and round. These ones are about the same size as a 5 pence piece.)

Button batteries are found in many objects that you might have at home, including hearing aids, car keys, remote controls, weighing scales, musical greeting cards and some toys.

swallowed foreign object 1.jpg

What you can do:

  • Check every battery powered device in your home and anywhere that your child stays. Ensure the battery case is shut and secured.
  • Know what objects in your home use button batteries and do not let your child play with them. Keep these objects out of you child’s sight and reach.
  • Be careful buying toys online, overseas or in markets as these may not meet UK toy safety standards.
  • Teach older children about the dangers of button batteries and that they should not give them to younger children to play with.
  • Keep spare batteries in a locked cabinet or box
  • Dispose of old batteries safely. Anywhere that sells batteries, such as a supermarket, should offer collection of old batteries.

Click here for more information on button battery safety.



Magnetic ball toys are about 10 times stronger than traditional magnets. If a child swallows more than one of the magnetic balls, they can stick to each other inside the body and cause damage to the bowel and other structures that get caught in between. They can be challenging to remove, often requiring surgery to do so. If your child has swallowed one or more magnets, bring them to the Emergency Department straight away.

magnets image 1.jpg

What you can do:

  • Do not buy magnetic ball toys for your children or other people’s children.
  • If your child is older, talk to them about the dangers of these toys and discourage them from buying these. It is very easy to buy unregulated toys online. Even if your child is sensible, accidents can happen.
  • If you have them in the house consider getting rid of them

Click here for more information on magnetic toys.

Click here for information on toy safety.

Click here for information on choking prevention.




This guidance is written by healthcare professionals from across Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight.

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