New Parenting Level Achieved: A Checklist for When Your Child Swallows Something That Isn’t Food


I’m not a doctor or a nurse but I put together this “so your kid swallowed an earring” checklist after my daughter did just that. I hope you find it helpful if your child decides at some point to swallow something that isn’t food. Be sure to contact your pediatrician or poison control if your child eats something dangerous.

So, how did I come to make such a checklist?

One afternoon my daughter came up and hugged me as I was putting away laundry. She whispered, “Mommy. I ate something I shouldn’t have.” I did my best to control my face and asked her to tell me what she ate. “A bracelet,” she said. She called all jewelry bracelets so there really was no way to be sure. I asked whether she could show me. She said, “Yes. I can show you the other one.” When she showed me the earring, I was sure she was mistaken. Because HOW could she possibly have swallowed this?

I asked her over and over. Are you sure? Let’s see if the other one is still with your other play jewelry. It isn’t here. Did you put it somewhere? Did you maybe just swallow one of these dangling strands? Nope? This entire thing? You’re sure? Did it hurt? Didn’t it taste bad? Girl, there is no way it tasted like a strawberry.

I called the pediatrician and spoke to one of the nurses. She was also skeptical after I described the style and size of the earring. She said we could wait and watch for the earring to “pass.” Or we could go to the ER and get X-rays. She said if it were her child, she would go to the ER just to be on the safe side. I called my husband and told him to meet us there.

I brought the surviving earring to the ER so I could show them what we were dealing with. The nurses, doctors and technicians were all sure that we would find the missing earring at home later. No way had she actually eaten that. And then the technician, as the scans came up on his screen, said, “Whoa. She sure did. There it is.” The nurses were all crowded around a screen looking at the same image when we got back from the scan. Is there a word for being both flabbergasted and impressed? We were told stories about children eating other scary things – nails, push pins, bottle caps, coins, etc. Usually these kids aren’t a few weeks away from turning 5 years old, though.

Thank goodness she didn’t choke or gag or vomit. She didn’t seem bothered in the least. She happily told the doctors and nurses that it tasted like a strawberry (her favorite fruit) and didn’t hurt going down. She assured us all that she understood that we do not eat what is not food. Some of the doctors asked for photos of the surviving earring. I let them take photos but I kept it for my girl’s scrapbook. And then I took her with me to buy the Miralax the doctor recommended. The pharmacist asked if he could help us find anything and giggled uncontrollably when I explained why we needed Miralax and showed him the Xray.

We used a toilet hat to catch the evidence and I had the glamorous job of searching for the earring. Believe it or not, this took several days before we finally got clear scans and the all-clear to go back to regular activities. I learned a lot about myself in this time. I have a stronger stomach than I previously believed and can muster more patience than I would have believed. Also, you go through a lot of Lysol and Clorox when you are using a toilet hat to search for a missing earring.

My daughter has learned that eating non-foods means you don’t get to participate in gymnastics. (Y’all. I couldn’t send her in there to jump on the trampoline while she was on Miralax. Right?) In case anyone is wondering, I confiscated all the play jewelry and it will not be coming back out for at least two years. Also we will be paying off that ER visit and those scans for years. I hope this checklist is something you never need. And may you never need to wear sandwich baggies as gloves to search through poop.


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