It's probably not a good idea to swallow anything that isn't food or medicine. Yet doctors have seen cases of people who've swallowed all sorts of weird objects, from household items like lighters to tech gadgets like an entire cellphone. One 10-year-old girl even swallowed a part of her fidget spinner. Take a look ...
It was only a matter of time … Fidget spinners sprouted up out of nowhere, reaching a frenzy of popularity in the spring of 2017. With so many little kids spinning these three-paddled toys on their fingers and elsewhere, someone was bound to get hurt, somehow. On May 13, 2017, in Texas, Kelly Rose Joniec's 10-year-old daughter accidentally swallowed part of her spinner. Joniec noticed her daughter was choking while driving home from a swim meet, Joniec wrote on her Facebook page. She immediately pulled over and got her daughter to urgent care; when the doctors there couldn't figure out the problem, an ambulance brought the Joniecs to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. Apparently, her daughter had put part of the fidget spinner into her mouth to clean it. An X-ray taken at the hospital showed the spinner's bushing, or one of the metal disks that can pop out from the toy — lodged in her esophagus. A doctor performed endoscopic surgery and removed the object, Joniec wrote. [Fidget Spinners: What They Are, How They Work and Why the Controversy]
A man in Croatia was found to have a lighter in his stomach, which had been there for 17 months. The man admitted to his doctors that he intentionally swallowed the lighter when he was at a police station, where he was being questioned about possibly smuggling drugs, according to a 2012 report of the case. The man had wrapped the lighter in cellophane, so he wasn't exposed to the toxic chemicals in the lighter, even after all that time. Doctors were able to successfully remove the lighter by using a snare-like medical tool, and pulled it out through the man's esophagus.
A 29-year-old prisoner in Ireland went to the emergency room after he swallowed a cellphone. An X-ray showed the phone was in the man's stomach. Since the phone didn't pass through the digestive system on its own, doctors tried to remove it using medical tools to pull the device up through the esophagus. However, they couldn't align the phone correctly to get it out of the stomach without potentially damaging the esophagus, according to a 2016 report of the case. Ultimately, the doctors needed to make a make a surgical incision into the man's stomach to get the phone out.
Doctors at the Dublin Incorporating the National Children's Hospital described the case in the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports in 2016.
Doctors who treated a 16-month-old boy got a surprise when an X-ray of his throat revealed SpongeBob SquarePants looking back at them. It turned out that the child had swallowed a pendant featuring the cartoon character that belonged to his sister. The doctors were able to remove the pendant without any complications.
An 18-year-old woman went to the doctors after she accidentally swallowed her toothbrush, according to a 2011 report of the case. The woman admitted she had been using the toothbrush to induce vomiting when she swallowed it, the report said. Doctors were able to successfully remove the 8-inch toothbrush using a snare-like medical tool. The women recovered and went home 6 hours later.
A fitness tracker
A 13-year-old girl in South Korea accidentally swallowed her Misfit Shine activity tracker after she put it in her mouth while swimming. After 30 hours of waiting for the device to pass on its own, it remained in the girl's stomach, and so doctors decided to try to remove it. They were able to use a snare-like tool to lasso the tracker, and take it out. The Shine still worked, and the girl recovered quickly.
A 55-year-old man in India accidentally swallowed a part of his denture when he had a seizure while sleeping. But the man didn't realize what he had swallowed until he went to the doctor eight days later, after he experienced chest pain and difficulty swallowing. An X-ray showed that part of the denture was stuck in his esophagus. Removing the denture proved difficult, but doctors were eventually able to extricate it without needing to perform surgery.
A 4-year-old boy in India was undergoing a root canal when he suddenly moved his head, and swallowed a sharp dental instrument called a pro taper file, which is used for root canals and looks like a small screwdriver. Initially, doctors weren't sure if the boy had inhaled the file or swallowed it, but an X-ray suggested the instrument was in his stomach. The boy wasn't in pain, and so doctors waited to see if the instrument would pass through the digestive tract on its own. X-rays taken later showed that the instrument was moving, and 41 hours later it passed, according to a 2015 report of the case.
A bobby pin may seem benign enough, especially if you're a toddler who sees everything mouth-size as something to be, of course, put in your mouth. But for a 4-year-old boy in Saudi Arabia, swallowing a bobby pin meant a trip to the hospital, according to a case report published Nov. 5, 2015, in the journal BMJ Case Reports. The boy had apparently swallowed the hair accessory months before his hospital visit, long enough that the bobby pin had rusted and become sharp, the researchers said. The sharpened bobby pin had pierced through the first section of his small intestine and pierced his kidney, according to the report. Doctors surgically removed the bobby pin, and the boy recovered successfully, they said.
"Children actually start exploring the world using their mouth as soon as they are able to pick up objects," said co-author of the case report Dr. Yasmin Abdulaziz Yousef, of the department of surgery at KAMC-JD, National Guard Health Affairs in Jeddah, who treated the boy. However, such swallowed objects typically "pass through the gastrointestinal tract and end up in the diaper," she said in 2015.
A 15-month-old girl who was brought to the ER at Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong in 2012 with breathing difficulty gave doctors a light-bulb moment, literally. After X-raying her chest, the doctors thought she had swallowed her grandmother's hairpin. But when the doctors had a closer look through a scope inserted into her nose, they realized a href="http://www.livescience.com/52151-led-light-bulb-toddler-cough.html">the girl had inhaled a light-emitting diode, or LED, bulb, intact, and it was lodged in her windpipe. Using forceps, the doctors removed the LED in pieces to minimize damage to the girl's airway, they reported online Aug. 26, 2015, in the journal BMJ Case Reports.
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Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.