What possesses a child to stick a pea up his nose or swallow a marble? Curiosity. Children are constantly exploring the world around them and sometimes place small objects in places they just don't belong, says Elizabeth Powell M.D., of Children's Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. Here, what to do when a child's curiosity goes awry:
"He swallowed a penny."
Most coins, marbles, and buttons will pass safely out of the body in a bowel movement within 7 to 10 days. But you should alert your doctor about any ingested foreign object; she may recommend an x-ray to make sure it isn't wedged in the stomach lining. Call right away if your child starts to cough or drool, or if he can't eat or drink -- the penny may be stuck in his esophagus and need to be removed surgically or with an endoscope.
"She crammed a crayon in her ear."
It will most likely get stuck in the ear canal and muffle her hearing; small objects rarely puncture the eardrum and cause permanent hearing loss. But the ear canal can get infected, so have your doctor remove the crayon -- digging it out on your own can be dangerous.
"He shoved a bead up his nose."
The bead can damage internal nasal structures and possibly cause an infection, especially if it keeps mucus from draining (bad breath is often a symptom). Your pediatrician should be able to remove the bead; if the object can be seen, a child may be able to blow it out with the help of a doctor. Don't try to dig out the bead with your finger -- you may accidentally push it in farther.