Welcome to parenthood. Please leave your nerves at the door.

If you aren’t already familiar with that stomach-through-floor moment when you ask “You stuck it WHERE?”, rest assured that it’s a matter of when, not if. Here’s how it’ll go down:

The incident will occur on a Friday after the surgery closes.

Not having seen them stick the object into the orifice in question, you’ll retain a nagging doubt as to whether they made the whole thing up and you’re sitting in A&E for four hours for nothing.

Having been through the horror of the hospital trip, removal and a thorough telling-off, they will promptly do it again.

There are two types of Foreign Object Incident: things that work their way through (items swallowed) and things that need to come out the way they went in (primarily noses and ears; occasionally bottoms).

When your child swallows something

If you think the object might be dangerous, or if your child is very young, they need to see a doctor. There are a few items for which you need to rush them to hospital (button batteries, poisons such as slug pellets, anything corrosive—such as dishwasher tablets—or anything sharp), but whatever they’ve swallowed, look out for ill effects (problems breathing, eating or drinking; blueish tinges around the mouth; pain in the chest or stomach; dribbling or vomiting). If you have any concerns, whip them into A&E.

In general, though, if the item is smallish, smoothish and non-toxic, you don’t need to go to DEFCON 1 immediately. Plastic items such as Lego won’t show up on an X-ray, so as long as it hasn’t got stuck, the doctor will probably tell you to go home and wait it out.

When a doctor says “wait it out”, what they mean is “wait until they poo it out”. Usually, this takes a couple of days but it can be as many as 10. It’s not advisable to give laxatives, but a bit of roughage will do no harm.

As ever, where children are concerned, things can always get worse. Steel yourself for the day they move on from Lego to more, errm, animate fare. It may be less dangerous (it is, after all, organic) but it’s likely to be far, far more disgusting.

When your child puts something in their nose or ear

Children, like nature, abhor a vacuum. Give them a tiny toy and chances are they’ll stick it somewhere. Items in nostrils, ears, bottoms and anywhere similar do usually need medical attention—it’s very easy to make the situation worse yourself.

Noses are a popular target. If the first you know of the object’s existence is the moment it emerges again, don’t feel bad; you’ll by no means be the first parent to have had no idea their kid was wandering around with a contraband item up their hooter.

But if a lucky sneeze is not forthcoming, you’ll be making your way to A&E. While it’s not common, it is possible for items up the nose to be aspirated into the lungs, so while this one isn’t an ambulance call, you do need to get them there as soon as you can.

On a positive note, the more ridiculous the item, the more certain you can be that your child will be the talk of medics’ dinner parties up and down the country the following weekend.

If you’ve got an ear situation, get the child in question to tip their head so the ear with the object in it is pointing to the floor. In this position, gently pull the ear slightly out and back, which can sometimes straighten the ear canal and the object may drop out. If not, get to A&E. Don’t be tempted to try tweezers yourself. The chance of them suddenly turning their head, causing you to force the object further in, is too great.

If they haven’t told you they’ve done it, you might notice their hearing deteriorates, or that they’re complaining of noise in their ear. Food items get smelly quickly, so if your child has an unusual aroma about them (a sort of eau de rotting dead goat) it’s worth asking a few questions.                                    

How to Blitz Nits by Mumsnet is published by Bloomsbury ($16.99). Out Now!

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