Dec 10, 2012 Post By: Children's Health

Kids Swallow the Darnedest Things
Patient story of 4-year-old Harrison gasping for air in the middle of the night because he ate an uncooked bean used as part of a craft project. The bean expanded in his airway and was choking the young boy. Safety tips for preventing choking are included.

Watching a child's every move is impossible — especially if it is 4-year-old Harrison Piering. “He has a twinkle in his eye,” says his mom, Carol. “You just look at him, and you know he’s about to do something he’s not supposed to do.”

One night in summer 2010, Harrison was coughing, unusually lethargic and wouldn’t eat dinner. Carol put him to bed, hoping he was just coming down with a cold. A few hours later, Harrison’s gasping cries woke her and her husband, Jason. “He was crying and sucking for air as hard as he could, taking these huge heaves.”

Harrison and Mom
Harrison with his mom, Carol

Harrison was rushed to the nearest emergency room, where the hospital staff stabilized him and found something lodged in his airway. Not having the necessary tools or skills to remove it, they sent the family to the nearest pediatric hospital. “But there was nothing they could do, either. They told us, ‘We have to transfer him to Children’s,’ ” Carol says.

At Children’s, two respiratory therapists, a physician and a physician’s assistant were waiting on Harrison. Within an hour, he went into surgery, and his parents were relieved to see him in the recovery room afterward with a pink face. The surgical team removed an uncooked bean used as part of a craft project at his preschool; he thought it was food and swallowed it. It expanded in his airway and got stuck, which could have cut off his oxygen.

These days, his parents don’t allow him near anything that could get stuck in his throat. “The preschool obviously does not use beans in any of their projects anymore,” Carol says.

Key Ways to Prevent Choking

  •  Allow your toddler to play with age-appropriate toys only.
  • Use a toilet-paper roll to determine whether toys and objects could present a choking hazard. If something can fit in the roll, don’t let your child play with it.
  • Ensure that small, uncooked foods — like beans and macaroni noodles — are not in reach or sight of  your child.
  •  Ensure the day care center or mothers-day-out program your child attends follows these protocols, as well, and has CPR-certified staffers who know the signs of a child struggling to breathe.
  • Don't allow kids to play with musical cards. Watch this news report at Children's to see how tiny batteries in the cards pose real dangers to children - Tiny Batteries Pose Real Danger to Children

Guessing Game

Can you identify these objects that have passed through our X-ray machines, and where they are located?

There's a quarter  in this patient's throat!


There's a closed safety pin in this patient's chest!


There's a battery in this patient's nose!