A patient once rang me to say that his son had swallowed a small battery which had been taken out of his camcorder. What would happen? I was defeated.
I had to ring the nearest hospital, where antidotes for poisons are in the hands of an expert. There was the possibility that the battery might cause an obstruction in the lad's bowel; but this was unlikely.
Children can swallow an extraordinarily large variety of solid objects - coins and even brooches and chunks of modelling plaster.
Usually, one's advice is to wait and watch. But the real problem in the above case was whether a battery contained any rare poisons. It did - over a dozen. However, there are many far more common poisons which occasionally even grown-ups swallow as well as youngsters.
There are several reasons for the increase in accidental poisoning.
Firstly, tablets which adults can take in safety are left where children - who can't take them safely - can get to them.
In addition, children don't bother about the dose. If the tablets are pretty and sugary, as is often the case, they will swallow a dozen or more.
So all medicines should be kept in a very safe place; and a cupboard out of reach is not always safe. Children are crafty, and they can get up on chairs and reach the most impossible places.
In addition, patients do tend to keep tablets and liquids far too long after the need for them has gone. There's a common idea that - like many other things some of us tend to keep - these tablets "may come in useful".
Many articles taken from 'A word with the doctor', by Dr. John Windsor.