Parenting brings a lot of uncertainty with it, and because all children are unique, it’s a fairly unpredictable job. But there is one thing you can count on, and that’s the steadfast tendency of children to stick just about anything they can reach right into their mouths. It’d be great if the things kids ingested were limited to lean proteins and whatever vegetable you stuck in front of them, but they instead tend to be things like bugs or bits of string or stale dog kibble. Or, as one Seattle-area couple found out, expensive wedding rings made of precious metals.
The couple, whose experience was posted to Reddit under the dad’s alias iamclarkgriswald, is seasoned to know one important principle of parenting: If you’re missing something small and there’s a child under 3 around, you might as well get said child x-rayed. It turned out to be a wise choice: In a post where he explained that “our baby will be a diamond mule for the next [couple] weeks,” the ring in question is glaringly obvious — in the toddler’s digestive tract:
From what we can gather from the comment thread on the post — though many of the original poster’s expository follow-ups are now deleted — the child is fine. The couple will just need to wait for the ring to be expelled naturally, which is fancy speak for “spend the next few days sifting through poo in diapers until the precious symbol of eternal love can be located in the midst of it all.”
That’s a relief. Kids indisputably have a tendency to shove all manner of things into their eating-holes, which can range from extremely dangerous to pretty benign. This falls into the latter category, though it’s never a bad idea to have a contingency plan for the day your own kid scarfs down something that might require an X-ray to locate for certain.
Swallowing foreign objects isn’t uncommon: In 1999, the American Association of Poison Control documented over 180,000 cases of foreign object ingestion in people under 20, with the highest number of incidences occurring in kids between 6 months and 3 years old. Since 50 percent of people who swallow foreign objects don’t have any symptoms, let alone complications, it’s pretty reasonable to assume the number could be even higher than that.
Most of the time, this won’t be a very dangerous catastrophe, because like so many things that cannot be digested, whatever your kid swallows will almost certainly end up in the potty or a diaper. But there are still some instances where a swallowed ring, penny or other item of household detritus can be dangerous.
The two biggest concerns when it comes to kids swallowing things they shouldn’t are aspiration (choking) and impaction (stuff that gets stuck). In the former category, you’ll want to know how to properly perform CPR, and an ER visit can tell you — if your child doesn’t appear to be in distress — if the object is stuck in either the esophagus or the trachea.
As far as the latter category goes, sussing out whether something is stuck can be a bit more of a challenge. Chances are good that if a child is entirely asymptomatic, the object has already passed, problem free, through the esophagus, where it will eventually make its way out the poop chute. With bigger or pointier objects, like poultry bones, nails or the odd super bouncy ball, you want to be on the lookout for symptoms like wheezing, vomiting, throat or chest pain, lots of drooling, gagging or bloody saliva. Again, an ER visit and an X-Ray can usually identify any problems immediately.
In rarer cases, an object could get stuck in the intestines and require surgery to remove. The biggest takeaway in all of these cases? If you see your child ingest something they shouldn’t — or if you can’t find your wedding ring and suspect it found its way into your kid’s mouth — your best bet is getting them to a doctor pronto to rule out any serious complications and to confirm your suspicions, if nothing else.
Preventative measures are always recommended, of course, like keeping small choke-ables out of the reach of kids who don’t know that they aren’t tasty, but there’s just no telling when something might slip through. If you do think your child has swallowed something, don’t give them anything to eat or drink, don’t induce vomiting, and don’t try to stick your finger back there to get it out — it could cause a blockage of the esophagus. Just get thee to an emergency room, or dial 9-1-1 if your child is in distress.
Chances are great that once the X-Ray is done and the object is located, the only thing left for you to do will be to invest in a bulk-size box of surgical gloves and find a pair of chopsticks you aren’t too attached to, because you’ll be spending a lot of time living out your childhood dream of sifting through muck for treasure.