Symptoms and Signs of Swallowed Object

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 11/12/2021

Doctor's Notes on Swallowed Object

Swallowed objects most often occur due to accidents but may in some cases be intentional. Young children, infants, and toddlers are most commonly affected, although swallowing a foreign object can happen to anyone. A swallowed foreign object is most likely to become trapped in the food tube (esophagus). Infants and toddlers are drawn to put objects into their mouths by natural curiosity, and they may also have trouble chewing certain kinds of foods, both of which put them at increased risk for swallowing a foreign object.

Most swallowed objects do not cause specific signs and symptoms. When signs and symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • pain or bleeding in the back of the throat, 
  • choking (if the object enters the airways and is not technically swallowed) or 
  • vomiting.

Other associated symptoms can include drooling and painful swallowing.

What Is the Treatment for Swallowed Objects?

Certain types of swallowed objects must be treated immediately, while others can be observed to see if the object passes in the stool.

Endoscopy, in which a tube with a camera is passed into the stomach, may be needed to confirm if the person has swallowed an object and then remove it. Endoscopy will typically be required if the object is long, sharp, a magnet, or a disk battery. It will also be done if the child or affected person has symptoms such as:

  • drooling,
  • breathing difficulty,
  • fever,
  • vomiting, or
  • pain.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.