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What Should I Do If My Child Swallowed a Penny?

By Sarah Lipoff ; Updated October 25, 2017

Somehow your child found a shiny penny on the ground, and before you realized it, swallowed it in one gulp. Before starting to panic, there are some simple things to do which will help the situation. Young children are attracted to small objects and it is not uncommon for them to put them in their mouths, or even swallow them.

Immediate Action

If you can see the object in the back of your child’s throat, gently remove it with your fingers. If your child is choking or is having difficulty catching his breath, call 911 and begin emergency procedures, starting with back blows. Stand behind your child and lean him forward with one arm while using the other to firmly hit your child’s back with the heel of the hand. If the object isn’t dislodged, wrap your arms around your child’s waist and perform abdominal thrusts. Make a fist with one hand and place it just above your child’s navel and wrap your other arm around his waist, and grab your fist. Thrust in and up to dislodge the penny.

Call for Help

Contact your pediatrician to discuss the proper action if your child is not choking. According to parents.com, pennies made after 1982 contain zinc, which is highly corrosive. A child’s esophagus or digestive tract can become damaged if the coin becomes lodged or isn’t passed through the system. It isn’t uncommon for a pediatrician to do an X-ray to determine if the coin is in a potentially dangerous location, or if it will pass on its own.

If the pediatrician feels it is necessary to remove the penny, surgery may be needed. Often a penny can be removed with the help of an endoscope or bronchoscope, which are long, thin lighted tools that will remove the penny.

The Waiting Game

In the majority of cases, pennies pass into the child’s stomach safely, and parents should just wait for the coin to go through the digestive tract. According to life.familyeducation.com, the penny will appear in a child’s stool within 24 to 48 hours. If the coin isn’t detected within four weeks, it will need to be removed with the help of a physician.

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