Every parent’s biggest fear is their child getting hurt, and accidents do sometimes happen. Young children often swallow foreign objects, which can lead to choking or other injuries. Fortunately, parents can reduce the risk of serious or permanent harm by taking precautions and by going to the hospital right away in the case of an emergency.
Dr. Saad Saad, a pediatric surgeon in Eatontown, New Jersey, has helped over 1,000 children from the ages of six months to 14 years. He has valuable advice for parents on how to prevent their children from choking and what to do if the situation does occur.
What to Do If Your Child Swallows a Foreign Object
Young kids are curious, so they’re prone to putting foreign items in their mouth and swallowing accidentally or intentionally. Parents should always keep a close eye on their children and make sure there are no small objects in reach.
When a child swallows a foreign object, the item usually passes through the esophagus and enters the stomach without any issues. However, there can be a serious problem if the object gets trapped in the esophagus or enters the windpipe. The following are some of the most common signs an item is stuck in the throat:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest or throat pain
- Inability to swallow
- Drooling or gagging
Larger items tend to get stuck in the esophagus, but smaller objects often get lodged in the windpipe. Some of the most common objects that kids choke on include peanuts, hot dogs, coins, and batteries.
If your child is younger than six years old and is choking, turn them upside down and hold them by their legs. Then, tap them on the back, and the object should pop out. If your child is older than six, you should do the Heimlich maneuver. Stand directly behind your child, wrap your arms around their waist, and repeatedly apply pressure to their abdomen. This should dislodge the object and force it out of their throat.
You should never reach into your child’s mouth and try to scoop the object out with your finger. This will likely push the item farther into your child’s throat, which will make the problem much worse.
If you can’t get the object out by yourself, you must take your child to the emergency room immediately. At the hospital, your child may have an X-ray to verify whether or not an object really is stuck in their throat. X-rays can only detect foreign objects about half of the time, though. For example, a coin will show up on an X-ray, but a peanut won’t. If the X-ray doesn’t show anything even though your child is obviously choking, they may need a bronchoscopy or an esophagoscopy.
Dr. Saad has performed many bronchoscopies and esophagoscopies throughout his career as a pediatric surgeon. Both of these procedures require the use of an endoscope, which is an illuminated device that helps doctors look inside of the body. The device is attached to a camera, so it provides a clear picture for doctors to examine the esophagus, windpipe, or other areas of the body.
It can be difficult to use an endoscope in the throat because the moisture in the trachea and esophagus can fog up the lens and block the view of the foreign object. Doctors typically have to remove the endoscope from the body several times during the procedure and use a vacuum to clear away the moisture from the lens. However, Dr. Saad has invented an alternative solution.
Dr. Saad Saad’s Life Saving Invention
Dr. Saad’s endoscope has an anti-fogging port and a suction-irrigation device port, which allows him to clear away the liquid and moisture fogging up the lens without removing the endoscope from the body. When a child is choking on a foreign object, it’s important to act as quickly as possible. This innovative new endoscope saves doctors lots of time when searching for the foreign item.
With the help of his anti-fogging endoscope and other surgical tools, Dr. Saad has successfully removed a wide variety of foreign objects from his patients. He often has to remove coins, and he can even determine how long ago a coin was swallowed based on its color. If a coin is shiny, it was probably only ingested a few hours before being removed. If it’s darkened, it was probably stuck inside the child’s body for a day or longer. Rust indicates that the coin was stuck for a month.
Most Dangerous Objects for a Child to Swallow
Any item can be dangerous for a child to swallow, so parents should be careful to keep small objects away from their kids. According to Dr. Saad, though, two particularly dangerous objects are batteries and peanuts.
Kids are surrounded by batteries in their toys and in electronic devices. They can easily pick up and swallow batteries, especially button cell or coin cell batteries that are especially small. When this happens, the acid may leak and cause serious burns and other injuries in the esophagus and stomach.
Peanuts may not seem like a big threat because they’re edible, but they’re especially dangerous for young children as they tend to get stuck in the windpipe. If this happens, the liquid in the lungs can soften the peanut and make it expand, which causes more blockage. According to Dr. Saad, it can be difficult to remove a peanut from the windpipe because the nut can easily break into fragments. If the peanut breaks apart, the pieces can scatter throughout the lungs, putting the child at risk of pneumonia and other illnesses.
How Parents Can Prevent Choking
Dr. Saad has three golden rules for parents to prevent their children from choking.
Rule 1: Kids under two years old should not eat hot dogs. Even when cut into pieces, hot dogs can completely block the throat if they’re not thoroughly chewed up.
Rule 2: Kids under seven years old should never be given peanuts. If a peanut gets stuck in a child’s windpipe, it can create a serious health emergency.
Rule 3: Parents should always keep an eye on their children during playtime to make sure they don’t put anything in their mouths. If you have multiple children, you should also make sure they don’t put anything in each other’s mouths. Even when you’re watching closely, accidents can happen, but being careful and observant is the best way to prevent your child from choking.
About Dr. Saad Saad
Dr. Saad Saad was born in Palestine and attended Cairo University in Egypt. After graduating from medical school with honors, he completed an internship in England. Now, he practices in Eatontown, New Jersey and is affiliated with Monmouth Medical Center, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, and Clara Maass Medical Center. He specializes in thoracic surgery and pediatric surgery.
Dr. Saad has also participated in eight medical missions to help underprivileged patients in Palestine. He was honored with the Humanitarian Award by the PCRF as well as the Gold Medal of Palestine. Throughout his career, he has helped thousands of patients and has made many important surgical innovations.