Gel Bead Safety

Heard of water-absorbing gel beads that look like candy? These cause serious trouble? Here is a piece from AAP News, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and I paraphrase:

Water-absorbing gel beads are sold as children’s toys and used in vases and gardens. The non-toxic water beads are called jelly beads, water orbs, hydro orbs, polymer beads and gel beads. When the tiny hard plastic balls are placed in water, they can grow up to 200 times their size. The clear colorful beads can be dried out and reused.  Because they look like candy, kids may be tempted to swallow them.

Since 2012 several children have required emergency care after swallowing beads. Last year a 2-year-old swallowed about 100 small beads that expanded to the size of marbles. They all did pass after 9 hours. Surgery has been required in some cases. And then some kids place things in other openings… like the ear. A 5-year-old and 7-year-old placed beads in their ears. The beads couldn’t be seen at first due to being clear and small, but they did cause enough irritation for treatment to be started with antibiotics. By the time they reached a large enough size to be seen, surgical removal was needed. Both kids have ear drum damage, and one has permanent hearing loss.

In 2012 and 2013, the CPSC issued voluntary recall of water-absorbing balls, bead and toys shaped like fruit and animals. But some similar products are still sold in craft stores and garden centers. Signs that swallowed beads are causing a blockage may include refusing to eat, drooling, vomiting, wheezing, complaints that something is stuck in the throat or chest, abdominal pain, constipation, abdominal swelling and soreness. Beware when visiting places to watch your child carefully, especially around decorative areas, and if you have any questions, call your doctor.  Give that kid a hug.

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