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Foreign object - inhaled or swallowed

  • Definition

    If you breathe a foreign object into your nose, mouth, or respiratory tract, it may become stuck and cause breathing problems. It can also lead to inflammation and infection.

    If you swallow a foreign object, it can get stuck along the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This can lead to infection or bleeding.

    See also: Choking

    Alternative Names

    Obstructed airway; Blocked airway


    Children age 1 to 3 are most like to swallow or breathe in a foreign object, such as a coin, marble, pencil eraser, buttons, beads, or other small items or foods.


    Certain foods (nuts, seeds, popcorn) and small objects (buttons, beads) are easily inhaled by young children. Such objects may cause either partial or total airway blockage.

    Coins, small toys, marbles, pins, screws, rocks, and anything else small enough for infants or toddlers to put in their mouths can be swallowed. If the object passes through the esophagus and into the stomach without getting stuck, it will probably pass through the entire GI tract.