(Reuters Health): A growing number of US children are being treated in emergency rooms after swallowing foreign objects such as currencies, toys and jewelry, suggests a study by the United States.
The researchers examined data on 29,893 children younger than six years of age who were treated in emergency rooms nationwide for "intake of foreign objects" between 1995 and 2015. Based on these cases, researchers estimated that 759,074 children visited ER per injection of foreign objects during this two decades.
In that same period, the annual rate of ER visits for these cases increased almost 92 percent, going from 9.4 to 17.9 incidents for every 10,000 children, according to researchers in Pediatrics.
"The number of these injuries is cause for concern," said the lead author of the study, Dr. Danielle Orsagh-Yentis, from the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"Although the currencies were the most frequently consumed object, the batteries are of special risk because they can cause considerable damage when injected," said Orsagh-Yentis by email.
The study found nine out of ten children treated in emergency rooms to swallow foreign objects and were released without being admitted to the hospital.
The currencies accounted for 62 percent of cases in ER, followed by toys by 10 percent. The jewelry and the batteries corresponded to another seven percent of the cases.
In all age groups, cents accounted for two thirds of the intake of currencies. Children who swallowed currencies were more likely to be hospitalized than children who ingested other objects – and the rooms led to more hospitalizations than smaller currencies.
Button batteries – the diminutive size that is often used in watches and hearing aids – accounted for 86 percent of all cases when children were injecting batteries.
Other objects that children swallowed included nails, bolts, cuffs, hair products, Christmas decorations, kitchen appliances and tableware.
Almost all of these foreign objects intake occurred in the home, according to a subset of cases that had data on the place where there were incidents.
Approximately a third of the cases included children under the age of two, the study also found.
The study was not a controlled experiment designed to prove whether and how any specific factor could affect the increase of ER visits for foreign object injections.
Another study limitation is that it only included children seen in ER, and not children who were treated in other settings or who were not injured enough to require caution. The researchers also did not have data on the exact objects ingested by individual children or the results for specific patients.
Even so, the results should serve as a reminder to parents that young people can and do put all sorts of objects in their mouths, said Dr. Pamela Okada, medical director of the Emergency Department in Children's Health Plan and professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
"Coins, jewelry, small toys, buttons and magnets are usually swallowed because they are small enough to fit a child's mouth," said Okada, who did not participate in the study. "Children constantly explore and understand their environment feeling things with their lips and mouths."
Parents should be especially cautious with button buttons and powerful magnets, said Lois Lee, an emergency medical doctor at the Boston Children's Hospital and the Harvard Medical School.
"The intake of a battery of buttons or a high-power magnet can be potentially lethal," said Lee, who did not participate in the study.
Button batteries should be stored outside the reach of children and get rid of where children can not access them, said Lee.
"And I say to families with young children who do not have high-power magnetic toys at home," Lee continued. "Often they are very small and, if they fall to the ground, they may not be very visible."
SOURCE: bit.ly/2X7yH8N Pediatrics, online on April 12, 2019.