February 15, 2023
The next thing he knew, it went down the hatch, reports NPR.
As an emergency physician at Western Health, in Melbourne, Australia, Andy says he meets a lot of anxious parents whose children also have succumbed to this impulse. The vast majority of kids, like Andy, simply pass the object through their stool within a day or so. Still, Andy wondered whether there was a way to spare parents from needless worry.
Sure, you can reassure parents one-by-one that they probably don’t need to come to the emergency room—or, worse yet, dig through their kid’s poop—in search of the everyday object. But Andy and five other pediatricians wondered, is there a way to get this message out … through science?
So, the six doctors devised an experiment, and published the results.
“Each of them swallowed a Lego head,” says science journalist Sabrina Imbler, who wrote about the experiment for The Defector. “They wanted to, basically, see how long it took to swallow and excrete a plastic toy.”
For participants in the study, the team excluded three criteria:
- A previous gastrointestinal surgery;
- The inability to ingest foreign objects; and
- An “aversion to searching through faecal matter” (the Short Wave team’s favorite).
Finally, Andy Tagg and his collaborators say that they wanted to raise awareness about a few types of objects that are, in fact, hazardous to kids if swallowed, unlike the Lego heads.
Chief among them are “button batteries,” the small, round, wafer-shaped batteries often found in electronic toys.
“Button batteries can actually burn through an esophagus in a couple of hours,” says Imbler. “So they’re very, very dangerous—very different from swallowing a coin or a Lego head.” Parents should keep them away from children.
Research contact: @NPR