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First Aid for Foreign Object Swallowed

Last updated March 5, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP


Foreign Object Swallowed is caused by accidental ingestion of a foreign body or an object.

What is Foreign Object Swallowed?

  • It is caused by the accidental ingestion of a foreign body or an object. The object may sometimes be large enough to get lodged in the throat or food pipe, which may be an emergency medical situation
  • In many cases, the swallowed object may reach the stomach, and if it is small enough, will be ejected out of the body through feces. However, in almost all cases, it is important to seek the help of a healthcare expert

What are the Causes of Foreign Object Swallowed?

Young children playing with small toys, toy parts, are the most common causes.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Foreign Object Swallowed?

Foreign Object Swallowed signs and symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Choking

How is First Aid administered for Foreign Object Swallowed?

First Aid tips for Foreign Object Swallowed:

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number), or seek immediate medical attention
  • If the object is sharp; remove it quickly, if possible

If the person is having difficulty breathing:

  • Perform 5 back blows between the shoulder blades
  • Perform 5 abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver):
    • Wrap around the person’s waist just above the navel, by standing behind the person, and with fist of one hand, grasp the fist with other hand.
    • Have the person tip forward slightly and press the abdomen hard with an upward thrust, as if trying to lift the person up
  • Keep performing 5 blows and 5 abdominal thrusts alternatively, till the blockage is dislodged
  • If you are performing abdominal thrusts on yourself:
    • Hold fist of one hand with the other, a little above the navel
    • Bend over on a hard surface and move fist upward and inward
    • After the object has been removed, look for any signs of infection or irritation
    • Check child’s stool, to see if the foreign object has come out, or if there are any signs of anal or rectal bleeding
    • If the child is having difficulty breathing, DO NOT feed them forcefully

Who should administer First Aid for Foreign Object Swallowed?

The individual (himself/herself) with ‘Foreign Object Swallowed’ or someone nearby, or a medical health professional, can administer First Aid.

What is the Prognosis of Foreign Object Swallowed?

The prognosis is dependent on many factors, but with timely help/intervention, it is usually good. 

How can Foreign Object Swallowed be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to prevent Foreign Object Swallowed:

  • Keep small foreign objects, out of reach of children
  • Make sure to cut children’s food into appropriate (chewable) sizes
  • Ensure that the child doesnot talk or laugh too much, while eating

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number)
  • Perform back blows and Heimlich maneuver appropriately

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Nov. 13, 2013
Last updated: March 5, 2018