Recognition and management of foreign body ingestion and aspiration
Evidence & Practice    

Recognition and management of foreign body ingestion and aspiration

Foreign body ingestion and foreign body aspiration commonly affect children. The most vulnerable age is between six months and four years, when children tend to explore new objects with their mouths. Many of these events remain asymptomatic, with the swallowed object passing through the gastrointestinal tract without causing harm. However, the frequency of serious complications as a result of the ingestion of hazardous objects has increased in recent years, in particular button batteries and magnets. To increase the likelihood of identifying foreign body ingestion and aspiration, healthcare professionals should maintain a high index of suspicion, be aware of the variation in presentations and include it as a differential diagnosis in children presenting with non-specific symptoms, such as fever, cough, drooling, dysphagia and abdominal pain. Management of most foreign body ingestions is conservative, using a ‘watch-and-wait’ approach. Children should be triaged as an emergency if they have signs or symptoms of airway obstruction or a history that indicates dangerous foreign body ingestion. Early recognition and management leads to improved outcomes for patients. Nurses have a vital role in providing education and practical advice to parents, which reduces the occurrence of these events. Stronger legislation is required to ensure manufacturers emphasise the potential dangers of certain products and design child-safe devices.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2017.e10449


Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Received: 11 February 2016

Accepted: 17 May 2016

Published online: 30 January 2017