Passing a Penny

Updated on January 24, 2007
B.H. asks from Columbia, TN
4 answers

My 20 month old swallowed a penny on Sunday, it's now Tuesday and she still hasn't passed it. Does anyone know how long it takes to usually pass a penny? She's eating and drinking well and also still using #1 and #2.

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answers from Memphis on

My daughter did the same thing and hers passed the next day. I would probably go ahead and take her to the doc just to be safe. Like previous moms have said, it can be an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous thing.



answers from Chattanooga on

My 5 year old daughter did the same thing about 3 or 4 months ago. We gave her lots of fluids, more than she usually drank and waited patienly for it to pass. I think she swallowed it on Thursday, and when it hadn't come by Monday we took her to the dr. He did an xray and found that it was very close to coming out. Tuesday she passed it and everything was ok. Needless to say, it was a very long weekend!!



answers from Memphis on

When a child swallows a penny, it can react with stomach acid to create a toxic mixture as corrosive as car battery acid, leading to severe stomach inflammation and even ulcers, physicians at Duke University Medical Center have discovered. The research findings show that the surprisingly common problem of ingested coins can pose a serious threat to children and pets.

Statistics from the Consumer Products Safety Commission indicate that more than 21 000 children made trips to the emergency room after swallowing coins in 1997.

Dr. Sara O'Hara, a pediatric radiologist, conducted the research after a 2 year-old boy was brought to Duke with an upset stomach. When doctors x-rayed the child's stomach, they discovered a small disc full of holes, which they assumed was a toy part or small battery. However, when doctors removed the object with an endoscope, they discovered that the object was a 1989 penny the child had swallowed four days earlier. In addition, the child had developed a stomach ulcer in the area where the penny had lodged.

"We were surprised to find that the object we saw on the x-ray was a penny because it had holes in it," said O'Hara. "Kids ingest coins all the time and they usually pass through the stomach and intestinal tract without incident. So we wanted to investigate what happened."

The researchers conducted a series of experiments in which they bathed pennies in a solution of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid). Pennies minted before 1982, which are 95 per cent copper and 5 per cent zinc, showed no erosion. However, those minted after 1982, which are nearly all zinc, with a thin copper plating, began eroding immediately. By the second day, they had holes in them. The researchers found the zinc in the coins reacted with the acid to form hydrogen gas and zinc chloride. The reaction, similar to the chemical process that occurs in car batteries, can erode the stomach lining, causing an ulcer.

"The high zinc content in recently minted pennies poses a potentially serious problem when ingested," O'Hara said.

When zinc is absorbed into the body in high enough doses, it can cause problems ranging from stomach ulcers to kidney, liver and bone marrow damage. O'Hara recommends that parents wait a day or two when they know their child or pet has swallowed a penny and check the stool to see if the coin emerges. If the child starts having stomach pain or vomiting, take the child to an emergency room.



answers from Huntsville on

Hi- I just did a web search and came up with several links on what to do. I would just call the doctor and explain the situation. Most likely it will pass today or tomorrow (according to the info I found online, but may take 4-5 days). Since it was metal, the doctor may want to do an x-ray to see where it is.

Good luck.

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