What to do when your child eats dirty and dangerous objects

Posted on November 16th, 2017

A curious little one will put just about anything in his mouth – here’s what to do in the case of an emergency. By Tammy Jacks

What to do when your child eats dirty and dangerous objects

Whether your child has sampled something he’s found on the ground in a public place or popped a strange berry or plant in his mouth, stay calm and assess the risks. If you’re unsure, it’s always a good idea to call your doctor immediately, who will advise you on the next step.

Follow this handy safety guide next time your child swallows dirty or dangerous objects:

Insects or worms

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, chances are your child will eat some sort of insect like an ant, beetle or worm – especially between the ages of one and three. The good news is, this is rarely cause for concern – your little one has simply had an extra hit of protein that will be digested along with other food. In some cases, hard, indigestible parts of the insect body, like legs or wings, will be passed in your child’s stool, which isn’t dangerous either. However, if you suspect that your little one has eaten a poisonous insect, watch for symptoms and check in with your doctor or paediatrician.

ALSO SEE: How to create a first-aid kit for every possible emergency situation

A battery

Batteries contain a corrosive agent and can cause a series of problems if ingested, warns Hayley. Most batteries are passed through the system and excreted in the child’s stool. However, should a battery get stuck, the danger of the corrosive agent leaking is high and could lead to significant damage and even death.
If your child swallows any kind of battery, it’s considered an emergency. Don’t hesitate to take him to your nearest hospital.

Sand or soil

Although around 20% of children will eat soil, and it may be amusing to see your baby munch his way through mouthfuls of sand, this isn’t as harmless as it seems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the soil in your garden or your local park could pose several hazards, including:

  • Chemical contamination, especially heavy metals such as lead
  • Harmful bacteria, mostly from sewage or manure
  • Parasites, especially roundworms from pet faeces.

However, most of us have healthy soil in our gardens and a little here and there won’t pose any risk to your child. Experts suggest taking extra measures to prevent your child eating soil if:

  • Your home is close to a petrol station
  • Your home is on land previously used by a firing range or factory that made paint, pesticides, or batteries.

A coin

In most cases, a coin will pass through the gastrointestinal tract. However, this does depend on the size of the coin. If it can get through the oesophagus, it should be passed in your child’s stool. Hayley recommends going to the emergency room for an X-ray, which can be done to see if the coin has lodged anywhere and if it has passed through the intestinal tract.

ALSO SEE: What to do if your child is choking

Should your child show any of the following symptoms, take him to the hospital as soon as possible:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Noisy breathing or wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Blood in his stools.

Dog or cat faeces

Kids often inspect and eat dog poo, especially if it’s lying around in the garden. Dog poo is relatively harmless if eaten in small amounts, but it may contain bacteria and parasites. If you find your child eating dog poo, wash his hands and mouth immediately and watch for any gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea or stomach pain.

Cat poo and cat litter should be completely off limits as cats are at a higher risk of being infected with toxoplasmosis – a tiny parasite that lives inside the cells of humans and animals, and is especially prevalent in cat litter. According to non-profit health organisation in the US, Nemours, “Toxoplasmosis spreads by touching or coming into contact with infected cat poo. A cat can become infected from eating infected rodents, birds, or other small animals.”

Symptoms to watch out for:

  • Fever
  • Swollen glands
  • A rash
  • Bruises that develop quickly.

Household detergents or medicines

If your child has chewed, drunk or swallowed any household detergent or medicine, no matter what the quantity, contact the Poison Control Centre while en route to the hospital.

ALSO SEE: How to poison proof your home


About Tammy Jacks

Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .