Esophageal foreign body (1866)

Key points below

What is an esophageal foreign body?

An esophageal foreign body is an object that gets suck in the food tube. This tube is called the esophagus. 

How do I know if my child has something stuck? 

A child with an object stuck in their food tube may:

What should I do if I think my child has an object stuck in the food tube?

If you think your child has swallowed something and is having a hard time:
Breathing - call 911. The object may be stuck in your child’s airway. If you have taken CPR, perform the skills you learned to stop the choking. 
Swallowing - call your child’s doctor or go to the Emergency Room.

What will happen in the Emergency Room?

How will the object be removed?

One of these procedures may be used:
Esophageal bougienage. The doctor may be able to move the object into the stomach using special tubes called dilators. This is done if the object: 
is small and smooth, such as a coin.
has been stuck less than 24 hours.

Esophagoscopy. This procedure is done in the operating room. It is done if the object:
has pointed edges like pins or jewelry. 
is very big. 
has been stuck for more than 24 hours. 
is not able to be removed with an esophageal bougienage.


Call your child’s doctor, nurse, or clinic if you have any questions or concerns or if your child:

  • Might have swallowed something, even if you did not see it happen.
  • Has special health care needs that were not covered by this information.
  • If your child is having a hard time breathing, call 9-1-1 right away. Use skills learned in CPR to relieve choking if needed.

The Wisconsin Poison Center is another resource can be reached any time or day. Call 1-800-222-1222 if you suspect your child has swallowed a foreign body or any other substance.