A disturbing study from the journal Pediatrics reveals a surge in the number of toddlers and young children visiting emergency rooms due to swallowing things like toys, coins, and batteries, reports the Associated Press. “In 2015, there were nearly 43,000 such visits among kids under six, compared with 22,000 in 1995…The rate jumped from almost 10 per 10,000 ER visits to 18 per 10,000.” Among hospitalized children, the most popular items were as follows, says Pediatrics: Among ER visits, says the study, “62% of items swallowed were coins, 10% were toys, 7% were jewelry, and just under 7% were batteries.”
In today’s helicopter parenting age, this seems shocking, until we factor in particular element: Could the rise in cell phones (and even laptops) allow for the momentary distraction of parents? Honestly, when my twins were toddling around, I feel like I spent the vast majority of my working hours just keeping them alive, away from stairs and electrical outlets and loose change and putting baby locks on bathroom cabinets. Even then, I’ll never forget the day my son toddled up to me proudly holding an ant trap he found behind a radiator, or my daughter’s trip to the ER to get a Lego out of her nose. My son was the type who put everything in his mouth, so that we couldn’t even go to our closest neighborhood playground because it was filled with wood chips. Unappetizing or no, into the mouth it went.
Fortunately those were minor infractions. Batteries and magnets, especially, can cause major problems, says the AP: “While 90% of treated children were sent home without hospitalization, severe internal injuries and deaths have been reported. Batteries and small high-powered magnets often marketed as desk toys for adults are among the most dangerous objects,” as these can actually cause internal damage instead of just, um, traveling through the system. For example, swallowed button-sized batteries “can trigger a chemical reaction that can burn holes through tissue inside the throat.” Magnets “can attract each other within the body and cause serious damage to internal organs or death” (they made up about 2% of ingestion cases in the study).
Take it from a twin mom who knows, parents: Put the phone down. Those kids are lightning-fast and have an innate sensibility to head right for the things you don’t want them to.