Doctors at a Sharjah hospital have noticed a worrying number of cases involving children swallowing small objects and drinking chemicals.
Al Qassimi Women’s and Children’s Hospital, part of the Emirates Health Services network, said there were 50 admissions last year involving young children who had ingested dangerous objects or substances.
Doctors dealt with five cases in a period of 10 days, including two children drinking chemicals used to clear drains.
One child was left with severe damage to the oesophagus and another with a damaged stomach and oesophagus, hospital officials said.
Two others were brought in after they had each swallowed batteries and more than five magnets.
Concerned about the increase in the number of cases, the hospital conducted a study last month to investigate the growing trend.
“The study suggested that more awareness about the risks of home incidents must be created and some objects that can cause serious harm should not be easily available in markets,” EHS officials said.
It found the most common objects swallowed by children brought to the hospital were batteries, magnets, nails and chicken bones, all of which doctors have warned can cause serious harm.
“The number of cases is much higher [than previously] but doctors at the hospital’s paediatric gastroenterology section only monitor cases that need endoscopic intervention,” the hospital’s administration said.
“In some cases, endoscopic intervention is not possible and risky for many reasons, such as if the swallowed object has crossed the area an endoscope can reach.”
Yasser Kamal Rashid, paediatric gastroenterologist at Al Qassimi Hospital, said swallowing objects or chemicals could cause serious damage to a child’s health.
“Such incidents can block, damage or burn a hole in some areas of the child’s digestive system,” he said.
“This may require an open-chest surgery to replace the oesophagus with part of the intestine, or to create a connection between two body organs, which may sometimes kill the child.”
In 2021, the UAE banned the sale of small magnetic balls – popularly known as rare-earth magnets – because of the risk they pose to children who swallow them.
Doctors said diagnosis can be particularly difficult in infants, who cannot explain what they swallowed or how they feel.
Swallowed batteries may cause them to cough or vomit blood, the UK’s National Health Service says. And batteries inserted into the nose or ear could lead to bleeding, it said.
Other red flags include drooling and discomfort.