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Family Forum: Children Swallowing Seeds

Is it okay to swallow seeds and pips? What about other solid objects? When should parents worry?

QUESTION:

We have young children and I tend to avoid buying fruit with seeds, unless I can cut them out, mainly because my kids refused to eat watermelon with seeds, or mandarins with pips. But now the oldest seems content to simply swallow them, rather than spit them out. Should I be concerned?

Is there any truth to the tale that appendicitis can be caused by swallowing a cherry stone?

ANSWER:

Certainly obstruction causing appendicitis with cherry stones and similar sized objects has been described in the medical literature but given the number of times swallowing of such stones occurs (especially in children), it is so small a risk that eating such fruit need not be prohibited. Obstruction with other vegetable or food matter has also been described but it is possible that such an obstruction may not be the cause of appendicitis.

Other small objects (less than the size of a ten-cent coin) usually proceed through the gut and come out the other end with no problem.

Larger objects usually lodge in the oesophagus (the tube between the mouth and stomach) causing discomfort and blockage. These must be removed under anaesthetic if other lay attempts to remove them fail. If the whole episode starts with a violent bout of coughing and the cough persists then the patient has inhaled the foreign body into the windpipe and this requires urgent attention and management at a hospital.

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Family Forum is a panel of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it. The panel is appointed by Relationships Australia SA.

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