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How to Protect Your Curious Kid

Look closely: Each of these items has found its way into the nose, mouth, or ear of a child, often with harmful results. Will your kid be next?
dangerous things to swallow

Brian Volckmann was packing for his family's move from Nashville to Spring Hill, Tennessee, a couple of years ago when he noticed that his 1-year-old son, Evan, had something in his mouth. After some coaxing, Evan parted his lips just enough to show the head of a one-inch nail that had apparently fallen out of the wall when his dad was taking down pictures. But when Volckmann finally got him to open his mouth again, the nail had disappeared. "I couldn't believe my kid had swallowed a nail right in front of me!" says the father of two.

He took Evan to the E.R. There, the doctor did an X-ray and saw that the nail was in Evan's stomach, not lodged in his esophagus or airway, so he recommended letting it pass on its own. A week later, when Evan had a follow-up X-ray, the nail was nowhere to be seen, and his parents never found the nail in his diaper. "It was as if it had never happened," says Volckmann.

Although Evan was incredibly lucky, not all kids are. Every year, about 100,000 children under age 4 are treated in the emergency room after they ingest or are injured by foreign bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.