Scimex: Parents are being warned of the risks posed to children by water absorbing beads, which can be used in vases of flowers and are increasingly being sold as toys and learning aids for autistic children. The beads, which will swell to 400 times their original size, can block kids gastrointestinal tract, and the number of incidents is on the rise. Since 2004 there have been 129 cases involving the beads reported to the New South Wales Poisons Information Centre, but the majority of these cases occurred after 2013. The researchers say there have been reports of serious bowel obstruction in children and the death of a 6-month-old child overseas.
PARENTS are being warned of the risks posed to children by water beads, which have been
increasingly marketed as toys and learning aids for autistic children.
The water-absorbing beads made from superabsorbent polymer can swell to 400 times their
original size when immersed, causing a foreign body risk that can obstruct the astrointestinal
In a short report published online today by the Medical Journal of
Australia, senior poisons specialist Dr Rose Cairns, of the NSW Poisons
Information Centre at Westmead Children’s
Hospital, and her
colleagues identified a rapid increase in incidents in recent years
involving the ingestion of water-absorbing beads.
examined cases documented by the New South Wales Poisons Information
Centre (NSWPIC) in children aged 0–14 years between January 2004 and
June 2016. Since 2004, 129 incidents involving the beads have been
reported to NSWPIC, 112 (87%) since 2013.
There have been reports of serious bowel obstruction in children who have swallowed water
beads. Serious complications have also been documented, including the
death of a 6-month-old child overseas. In this case, the baby developed
sepsis from an anastomotic leak that occurred after the surgical removal
of a water bead obstructing the jejunum.
While the Australian
Competition and Consumer Commission has both urged companies not to
market water beads as toys and alerted consumers to their risks, water
beads promoted as “fairy eggs”, “jelly beads”, and “hydro orbs”,
continue to fill toy shop shelves.
The authors wrote that
clinicians should be aware of the risks associated with these products,
and that early hospital referral of people who have swallowed the beads
should be considered.
“Any patient who has ingested a water bead and has gastrointestinal symptoms should be
assessed for potential obstruction,” they wrote.
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The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.