A balloon is a seemingly harmless object of such great pleasure for young children.

Yet as quickly as that balloon can pop, a child can inhale it and that little piece of latex can seal off the lungs and stop the child from breathing. Balloons are one of the leading causes of death in children younger than age 5.

One way young children explore the world is with their mouths. Parents of infants and toddlers, in particular, should assume that anything and everything will go straight to their child’s mouth and take all precautions to prevent that from happening.

You can teach slightly older children not to put things in their mouths, but you still have to supervise them carefully and take steps to avoid accidents.

What May Happen
If a swallowed object blocks the airway or esophagus, the child may start to cough, wheeze, choke, drool, have trouble swallowing, vomit, spit up saliva or turn blue. Prepare yourself by learning the appropriate emergency procedures for dealing with choking in children.

Objects that are swallowed into the digestive tract often pass harmlessly through to the stool within a few days. Should your child swallow a foreign body and have no signs of choking, check the child’s stool to make sure the object passes out.

Some objects are potentially dangerous, such as pennies and button batteries, because they contain toxic materials. For your own peace of mind, you may want to give your doctor a call if your child swallows a foreign body.

Take the child to the doctor if the object is not eliminated within four or five days, sooner if she swallowed a penny or battery.

Dangerous Objects to Swallow
Here are some common items that kids tend to swallow or inhale.
balloons, deflated or burst (Do not let young children try to blow up balloons.)
coins
button batteries
rocks
hard candy
gum
buttons
pins
grapes
crunchy raw vegetables cut in large or round pieces
nuts
small toys
toy parts
marbles
straight pins and safety pins
razors
toothpicks
Be vigilant about keeping these items — and anything else of small size — safely out of your child’s reach.