If you breathe a foreign object into your nose, mouth, or respiratory tract, it may become stuck. This can cause breathing problems or choking. The area around the object also can become inflamed or infected.
Children ages 6 months to 3 years are the age group most likely to breathe in (inhale) a foreign object. These items may include nuts, coins, toys, balloons, or other small items or foods.
Young children can easily inhale small foods (nuts, seeds, or popcorn) and objects (buttons, beads, or parts of toys) when playing or eating. This may cause a partial or total airway blockage.
Young children have smaller airways than adults. They also can’t move enough air when coughing to dislodge an object. Therefore, a foreign object is more likely to get stuck and block the passage.
Schroeder JW, Holinger LD. Foreign bodies in the airway. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 387.
Shah SR, Little DC. Ingestion of foreign bodies. In: Holcomb GW, Murphy JP, Ostlie DJ, eds. Ashcraft’s Pediatric Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 11.
Thomas SH, Goodloe JM. Foreign bodies. In Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA.: Elsevier; 2018:chap 53.
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