Also known as:
dime nickel penny quarter
- Ingesting a single coin typically results in no symptoms.
- Ingesting multiple coins can result in nausea, vomiting, and significant stomach distress.
- Gagging and choking while swallowing a coin is concerning, call the poison center or 911 immediately.
What to Do
- Inspect the mouth for any more foreign bodies.
- Give a serving size of water to drink.
- Call 1-800-222-1222 for additional instructions.
Quick Facts about coins:
Poison centers frequently get calls about children swallowing coins. The vast majority of all swallowed coins can be handled at home, with the coin typically being able to pass through the stomach and intestines coming out in the stool with minimal noted effects.
What should I do if my child swallows a coin?
When the poison center receives a call about a child swallowing a coin, the first concern is possible gagging and choking. Most calls are regarding children, and due to the coin being rigid and relatively large, children can have difficulty getting the coin down to the stomach.
The symptoms our poison experts will ask the caller are ones such as,
- “Did the child have any coughing, gagging, or obvious choking when the coin was swallowed?” or
- “Does the child appear to be having trouble breathing or swallowing at this time?”
If the answer is yes to these types of questions, the poison center will recommend taking the child to an emergency department immediately. This indicates the coin may have gone down the “wrong pipe,” and it may be presently in or blocking the airway. If the child is in distress, we recommend calling an ambulance so that they can receive care straight away on the way to the emergency department.
What to do if someone swallows a coin but isn’t coughing or choking?
If the child appears to have swallowed the coin without choking, the next issue is ensuring the coin reaches the stomach. Sometimes, a coin becomes lodged in the food tube (esophagus).
Symptoms associated with this are:
- persistent chest discomfort,
- feeling like something is stuck with frequent throat clearing,
- poor feeding or refusal to eat or swallow.
In this circumstance, we’ll refer the child to an emergency department for an x-ray of the chest area. An x-ray will locate where the coin is and determine if a surgical scope is required to either retrieve the coin or push it into the stomach.
If a child 2 years or older swallows a coin and appears to be fine, meaning there is no coughing or discomfort, and the child can swallow easily, the case can be handled at home. The poison center will recommend giving the child fluids to drink and a snack and will call back to the home to make sure the child continues to do well.
However, if a child younger than 2 years of age swallows a coin and appears to be doing well, the poison center will refer the child to an emergency department for a localization x-ray. This recommendation is non-emergent but needs to be done within 48 hours. There will also be a recommendation to monitor for passage of the coin by checking the stools for children under the age of 2 years for up to one week. If there is no passage of the coin, contact the poison center or your pediatrician for further instructions.
Are coins toxic when swallowed?
Swallowing a single coin that reaches the stomach is not toxic. There are issues if someone swallows multiple coins, especially pennies. Pennies are made primarily of zinc, which can alter the lining of the stomach and cause significant gastric distress. The longer the pennies remain in the stomach, the higher the chance for more serious symptoms.
Although other coins are not known to cause these specific symptoms, it is best to call the poison center if someone swallows multiple coins of any denomination. The poison center can monitor for the development of any symptoms via phone calls to the home.
Call the Missouri Poison Center
If you find someone has swallowed a coin, do not panic. Inspect their mouth, remove the coin if found, and then give them some water to drink. Call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222 for the situation to be assessed and monitored correctly. The poison center is open all day, every day, for poisoning emergencies and questions.
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