What lands small kids at hospital emergencies? There is a possibility the reasons that first come to your mind would be sickness, cuts, injuries, allergies etc. However, a recent US study found cotton swabs (ear buds) sending about 34 American children to the hospital emergency every day.
The study that was published online in The Journal of Pediatrics works as a warning for parents to keep those cotton buds away from their kids as it runs the risk of giving them ear injuries.
“The two biggest misconceptions I hear as an otolaryngologist are that the ear canals need to be cleaned in the home setting, and that cotton tip applicators should be used to clean them; both of those are incorrect,” says senior author Kris Jatana from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
About two out of every three patients studied were younger than eight years of age, with patients aged zero-three years accounting for 40% of all injuries.
“The ear canals are usually self-cleaning. Using cotton tip applicators to clean the ear canal not only pushes wax closer to the ear drum, but there is a significant risk of causing minor to severe injury to the ear,” the author warned.
Back home in India, the bizarre reasons for which children are taken to hospitals are many.
“In my long career as a paediatrician, I have seen the oddest of cases in hospital emergencies. I have seen all sorts of things stuck either in a child’s respiratory tract or tummy. I have found coins, buttons, all pins, nails, tiny needles among other things,” says Dr VK Paul, head of pediatrics department, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi.
Dr Anupam Sibal, senior paediatrician in Delhi, says, “I have taken out some of the bizarre stuff from the stomach of small children. Things like small torch bulbs, remote batteries, safety pins, lockets etc” Most of these kids were between two and three years old.
“Small kids have a tendency of putting things in their mouths out of innate curiosity. It is mostly due to carelessness of parents that they pop in stuff that could be hazardous to their health,” says Dr Sibal.
“A lot of things pass through stools and if there is anything stuck precariously, we pull it out using an endoscope. These accidents are quite common in small children,” Dr Paul says.
Dr Sibal says, “This is a common problem in small children. We deal with such cases on a daily basis. Most of the time it is not serious but we have to be extremely careful when we are taking out things like batteries, which can perforate and lead to mercury poisoning in the child.”
“Even taking out glass bulbs, which can break, and open safety pins out of a child’s stomach is always tricky.”
Another common problem is accidentally drinking chemicals or medicines.
“I often see children who have ingested either a medicine or some chemical accidentally. The treatment depends on how severe the case is, and in most cases stomach wash works well,” says Dr Nitin Verma, associate director, paediatric department, Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital, Saket.
There are many kids who have a habit of eating clay or chalk that gives them an upset stomach. However, it is one of the manageable problems, say doctors. There have been much worse cases that they narrate.
Doctors at AIIMS have even retrieved about four-foot-long hair ball from the abdomen of a four-year-old boy, who was in the habit of eating hair. The surgery to remove the hair ball had taken doctors about an hour.
The boy, Sivam Kumar, suffered from a rare condition called The Rapunzel syndrome, wherein the hairball extends from the stomach to the small intestine or beyond.
In Sivam’s case the hairball had covered his large and small intestines both; so much so that there was no space left in his abdomen to accommodate food.
Doctors performed a CT scan of the abdomen where the hairball was clearly visible.
“We took out 117cm-long hair and some amount of thread in red and green colours from his abdomen. It is considered a psychological disorder usually found in adolescent girls,” Dr Shilpa Sharma in the department of paediatric surgery at AIIMS had told HT. Dr Sharma had conducted the surgery on the boy.
Then there is pet trouble. However, the number of kids who land up at doctors’ clinics or hospital after having been accidently hurt by their pet is very small in comparison.
Most kids, say doctors, come to them with scratches either by a dog or a cat. It is very rarely that a child gets bitten by the pet. Treatment depends on the case condition- either just first-aid or a rabies shot in cases where the wound is deep.
Kids are curious and the only way to stop such accidents from happening is by being careful.
“We always tell parents to be alert when there is a small child around. You cannot afford to be careless when it comes to small children as they are accident prone,” warns Dr Sibal.