Also known as:
fidget balls hand exercise balls rubber ball squishy balls water bead balls
- Minor stomach upset
- Choking hazard
What to Do
- Wipe or rinse out mouth.
- Give a serving size of water to drink.
- Rinse any exposed skin with lukewarm water.
- Call 1-800-222-1222 for additional instructions.
Quick Facts about Stress Balls
Adults use stress balls to help with stress relief. The repetitive squeezing allows for the release of built-up stress energy, promoting relaxation. Aside from stress relief, physical therapists commonly use them to help with strengthening hand and finger grip. Some come in various shapes and colors with glitter and sparkles, as toys for children to squeeze, stretch, and use as a “fidget” toy.
Most stress balls are easy to bite into, exposing the inner material and making it available to children. As most parents know, kids will eat anything. The inner materials in stress balls vary. It can be a thick or thin liquid gel-like substance, a powdery substance, gel beads, water beads, or a combination of these materials.
Examples of stress balls are:
- Squishy ball: Usually made with a thick or thin gel, or sometimes small gel beads. The gel used will determine how easy the ball is to squeeze.
- Foam rubber ball: A non-toxic polyurethane foam fills the balls.
- Splat balls: Made from thermoplastic rubber, splat balls have a sticky outside, are stretchable, and can stick to most surfaces when thrown.
- Memory gel ball: Memory gel balls are very squishy and stretchy. They can snap back to their original shape if they contain memory gel.
- Hand exercise ball: Usually has a durable gel core covered with a nonstick fabric. The density of the gel core determines if the squeeze is soft, medium, or hard to improve grip strength.
- Water-bead and hydrogel sphere ball: Usually covered in a thin, clear rubber to show the colorful water beads inside.
- Powder-filled balls: An exercise ball covered in fabric and filled with sand, grains such as buckwheat, or plastic beads such as Ergo Beads™.
Are these products toxic?
Stress balls are usually safe, and minimal to no symptoms are expected from a small taste of the contents. Some materials in stress balls may cause stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting.
Most times, young children explore and eat only small amounts of the material, which will help minimize irritation to the stomach. Children who are very young and not accustomed to solid foods can choke. Signs of choking are coughing, gagging, and sometimes vomiting.
If your child has persistent coughing, drooling, or chest discomfort, this can indicate a piece of the stress ball is stuck in the throat area. Call 911 immediately if they are having difficulty breathing. Once in the stomach, the material does not cause harm and will pass through the GI tract and come out in the stool.
There are stress balls with a thin rubber covering that contain water beads inside as the squishy material. When the child bites into the ball and if it is punctured, the water beads are released. Children will eat these water beads, which are already plumped or hydrated. There are no special concerns when these are ingested other than minor stomach upset and choking. Water beads can be a problem when the dried, dehydrated beads are ingested and increase in size in the limited space available in the stomach and intestines. There is a risk of obstruction if the bead gets too large and it cannot pass through the intestines. If your child has ingested dehydrated water beads, please call the poison center immediately for expert advice.
If you find someone has bitten into and possibly eaten a small amount of the stress ball material, do not panic. Wipe out the mouth with a soft, wet cloth, remove any pieces of the ball from the mouth, and give them some water to drink. If problems start or you have questions, call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222. The poison center is open all day, every day, for poisoning emergencies and questions.
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