The equivalent size of a US coin would be a Quarter, which has a diameter of 24.26mm
After my 5 and a 1/2 year old son swallowed a 2p coin, I assumed that it would probably come out of its own accord eventually, but we took him to the hospital anyway to get him checked out.
The initial thing to realize is that if you're child isn't gagging and hasn't been sick, the coin has traveled down the narrowest part of the child's body, which is the throat area. Beyond that, the next narrow aperture connects the stomach to the intestine, and this internal sphincter should in theory be able to process any object that has passed down the gullet. In theory.
In our child's case, the coin remained in the stomach, just above aperture to the intestine for well over a week, according to a couple of x-rays.
Because these are to be kept to a minimum, there is a careful balance to be struck between knowing what's going on with the coin, and not knowing. This can be a difficult call, and in our case, was a major reason why they decided to remove it. That is, rather than keep re-x-raying to see the situation, it was easier to just remove it.
Different professionals were around, and all seemed to have different opinions as to the importance of operating to remove the coin, which was a little confusing. Some tended to say there was no problem and it would easily pass through, or that it was at least worthwhile waiting, while others seemed convinced from the onset that it had to be removed. The final decision came from the consultant (a mystical figure who was always 'in theater', and which needed hours of waiting on our part to get his decision).
There didn't seem to be any concern about copper poisoning from the professionals in attendance.
General Anesthetic and Operation
The easiest way for them to remove the coin was to operate through the mouth. This might sound dramatic, but in fact it is a very common procedure. An endoscope is used which is a camera on the end of a wire, and we were told that a balloon device was inflated around the coin to get a grip on it, before pulling it out. Apparently it is a very routine operation.
A general anesthetic was administered, which in some ways was the most disturbing part of the operation. It just wasn't nice to see our child 'go under', as it were. Recovery, however, seemed to be pretty quick, and he was only unconscious for about half an hour. There were a few red marks around his mouth, where the tubes etc had been pressing down, but these cleared quickly enough.
A general anesthetic takes a while to recover from, however, and for a child to really shake it off. Our boy seemed not quite himself for a couple of days later.
If your child has swallowed a coin
If the coin is small, there's probably little to worry about, though checking to see whether it has come out or not, is worthwhile. However, according to the doctor very few parents are any good at checking their child's crap thoroughly - this is for obvious reasons I think! All I can suggest is... it could be time to get out that old potty again and a knife. Yup, a knife.
If the child has swallowed the coin without gagging, then in fact the most dangerous part of it has already occurred.
Obviously the age and size of the child has to be taken into account, as bigger guts can accommodate bigger objects. I read somewhere that it took someone's child 3 weeks to pass a 2p coin, but it was an older boy (about 9).
I echo something I read on a parenting forum, that it is really quite stressful not knowing how the coin is progressing and not knowing what to do about it.
Getting your child checked out - especially after swallowing a larger object like a 2p coin! - is the correct course of action and not silly. Hospitals are used to this kind of thing.
gaby on July 12, 2020:
When I was about 3 I had a 2p coin in my mouth and I breathed in and it went down my throat and I couldn’t breathe. I managed to cough it out of my trachea but in a panic I then swallowed it. I was too scared of being in trouble to tell anyone and I’ve kept it a secret till now. I’m 16. It’s probably my earliest memory and I can still remember the feeling of not being able to breathe and then the fear of swallowing it. Not fun :/
Electro-Denizen (author) from UK on August 17, 2013:
WackyMummy thanks for visiting. Our son had never been big on putting random things into his mouth, so it was a surprise when it happened at 5 and 1/2
Wacky Mummy from UK on August 16, 2013:
Useful hub!! I will be keeping an eye out on my son as he's just turned 5 and we haven't had anything like this yet! ;)
Electro-Denizen (author) from UK on January 24, 2013:
ChitrangadaSharan - I have no idea how mine managed this at 5 and a 1/2, having gone through all this time without problem! Thanks for reading.
rfmoran - thanks for visit, have a nice day!
Electro-Denizen (author) from UK on January 24, 2013:
sun.sush23 - wherever I looked on the web, all I could find were half stories that weren't useful to us with regards to this hub's topic - or people asking advice and never hearing what then happened to their child, which was frustrating. Thanks for comment!
Russ Moran - The Write Stuff from Long Island, New York on January 24, 2013:
Good hub. You confront one of the scarier things in child rearing.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 24, 2013:
A very nice hub for parents, who have little children. I remember my days, when all the time I was looking around and removing small objects, from my small children's reach. But still, they would find something and put it in their mouth.
Your hub is a precautionary reminder to parents of small kids. Thanks for sharing.
Sushmita from Kolkata, India on January 24, 2013:
We all know that kids have this funny tendency to pick and eat and swallow all the wrong things. Your hub is a nice read, and it would prepare parents for such emergency- and what to do or expect immediately after. Voted up useful.