Children and infants are curious by nature and love to explore things, mess around and pick up anything which catches their fancy and put it in their mouth. It is their natural instinct and if they find anything interesting (which is almost everything!) to put it in their mouth, to taste it, chew on it etc. Even if any object is big in size, such as a remote control, then you may have noticed that they anyways put it in their mouth. However, this habit of children is very dangerous and parents always need to monitor their kids to prevent them from swallowing anything. Children can easily swallow small items such as rubber, marbles, buttons or pennies. Each and everything is a potential food item for them and being children they happily swallow it without a care in the world. Pennies, especially with their metallic shine, smooth feel and cool touch are very fascinating for children and they think it is some kind of a candy and immediately in the penny goes into their mouth. But what happens if a child has swallowed a penny?

Read on to find out.

What Happens If a Child Swallows a Penny?

What Happens If a Child Swallows a Penny?

If your child has swallowed a penny, then you need not go into panic mode immediately. If the swallowed penny has gone into the stomach, then most often than not, it gets expelled with stool. But if the penny is trapped on the way to the stomach, then it is a serious situation and needs immediate attention. If the penny gets stuck in the esophagus, the child will experience the following symptoms which should not be ignored:

  • Continuous dribbling of saliva from the mouth.
  • The child has difficulty in swallowing anything, and will not eat food or drink anything even if the child is feeling hungry.
  • The child will have pain in the chest or neck.
  • The child can have vomiting also.
  • The child can develop sudden fever.

If the penny is trapped in the intestine and tears the wall of the intestine then the child will experience the following symptoms:

  • Stomach pain.
  • Vomiting.
  • There is blood in the stool which gives the stool a dark color.
  • Abnormal bowel sounds.

In cases, where the penny is stuck in the intestine and the child continues to eat and swallow without any difficulty but will experience continuous coughing. The trapped penny causes irritation and inflammation of the esophageal tissues, which can lead to rupture of the esophagus resulting in a fatal situation.

How Long It Takes To Pass a Swallowed Penny?

It is common for parents to panic after their child has swallowed a penny or some other foreign object. Majority of the times it is not a cause for worry as the penny will pass on its own with no damage due to its round edges, and eventually gets expelled with stool. It takes about a day or two for the coin to pass through the digestive tract and get expelled.

When to Seek Medical Attention After the Child Has Swallowed a Penny?

It is important to keep an eye on the child and observe him for serious symptoms which are:

  • The child has trouble breathing (labored breathing).
  • The child is unable to cry or speak.
  • There is drooling of the saliva.
  • The child is unable to swallow food or water.
  • The child breathes noisily or coughs.
  • The child is seen to be choking.
  • There can be loss of consciousness and continuous vomiting.

If the child exhibits the above symptoms then seek immediate medical attention. If your child is doing well and playing and eating normally and does not have any other symptoms, then you can wait for a couple of days to allow the penny to pass on its own through poop. However, it is recommended to consult your pediatrician even if the child is not experiencing any symptoms.

What NOT To Do When Your Child Has Swallowed A Penny

  • Never try to make the child vomit.
  • Never self medicate the child by giving laxatives in order to speed the process of excretion.
  • Never force the child to eat or drink.

Ways to Get Rid Of Swallowed Penny: What To Do After The Child Has Swallowed A Penny?

  • After the child has swallowed a penny, it is important to closely monitor your child for symptoms of distress.
  • Check the child's poop for the next two to three days to see if the penny has been expelled. If you see the penny in the poop then there is no need to worry.
  • The food which is given to the child should be soft and fibrous. One of the good options is bananas, which help in moving things faster in the child's digestive system.
  • The child should be kept hydrated by giving him/her lot of water. A well hydrated body will help in passing the stool with penny easily.

Medical Treatment for Removing a Swallowed Penny

If the penny does not pass out after following the above steps and remains in the child's body for more than 2 days, then it is important to seek medical attention. When you take the child to the hospital, the doctor may tell you to wait for some more time to allow the penny to pass out naturally. The doctor then will prescribe some medicines to help your child poop the penny out. X-ray may be taken to locate the exact position of the penny in the child's body and also to ascertain if the swallowed object is indeed a penny and not something else. It is not necessary to remove the swallowed penny surgically; however, if the child has not swallowed a penny and has swallowed something sharp which can cause damage or puncture the gastrointestinal tract, then endoscopy is done to remove that object.

Tips to Prevent Your Child From Swallowing A Penny

Never allow your child to play with any type of money including bills. Other than the risk of swallowing, the money also passes through many hands and contains about zillions of germs and bacteria on them.

Other than pennies, your child should never be allowed to play with small objects such as cars or dolls or any toys which has small removable parts. Other than swallowing them, the child can also put these small objects into his/her nose.

You need to be extra careful when you are outdoors as there are many insects, bugs, beetles, caterpillars which the child can pick up and put in his/her mouth.

Conclusion:

It is natural for parents to panic after their child has swallowed something. If the child has swallowed a penny, then most of the times it will get expelled via pooping usually within 2 days. If the penny is present for more than 2 days in the child's body, then a doctor's visit is warranted. Surgical removal is not always needed if the child has swallowed a penny; however, if the child has swallowed something sharp, then it needs to be removed surgically.

Little children are curious by nature and it is common for them to pick up anything which catches their attention from the ground and put them in their mouth. We need to monitor not only our children, but also monitor what they are playing with. Even the safest of safe toys can prove to be hazardous if they have small removable parts attached to them. For this reason, never leave your child alone even when playing toys and check on them from time to time.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: September 22, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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