You wouldn’t give your child a golf ball to chew on, right? But, that’s exactly what might happen if your child plays with water expanding beads.

If you’re confused, we don’t blame you. Water expanding beads are supposed to be fun child favourite. So, what could they possibly have in common with a golf ball? According to an NSW Poisons Information Centre update, these beads could expand to the size of a golf ball in your child’s bowel if ingested. Yikes!

Even though the beads may seem small (many make marbles look large), when they expand they grow to many times their original size. Obviously this expansion could cause a major blockage, possibly requiring surgery. When the beads are exposed to air, they start shrinking. That said, if left in your child’s intestine, they aren’t exactly getting to do so. The largest beads pose the greatest risk (of course!).

The water expanding beads are often sold as children’s toys. The NSW Poisons Information Centre notes that some companies have advertised the beads as possible party bag favours. These beads are also often found as materials listed for use in sensory activities. Even though they certainly add a tactile edge to your child’s sensory play, it’s not worth the risk that they pose.

The Poisons Centre is advising all parents to stop using these with children right away.

If you happen to have a few of these beads sitting around the house (or secretly stashed away), keep them far away from your child. With that in mind, it’s best to get rid of them – before your curious (and, that’s putting it mildly) child gets her hands on them.

water-beads-have been warned as a health danger to children
The water expanding beads show you just how much they expand when exposed to water and what they can do if ingested to block your child’s bowel. Photo source: NSW Poisons Information Centre/Facebook

This latest warning against using expanding water beads with children comes after the ACCC released a danger statement in March of 2015. ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said, “The ACCC has recently discovered that the water balls are being marketed as sensory learning toys for children and that three Australian children have required medical procedures after swallowing them.”

Keep in mind, these beads are often marked as non-toxic. This may make you think that they’re child-safe … but they aren’t. Just because the product may have a label saying that it isn’t poison, doesn’t mean that it can’t cause major damage to your child (that is, if your child eats them).

Along with intestinal obstruction, the beads can cause severe pain, vomiting and dehydration. In the US, the American Academy of Paediatrics noted that beads can also cause damage to a child’s ears. After two cases (in the US) of suspected ear infections, doctors found that the children had actually placed the expanding beads in their ears. Both children required surgery to remove the expanded beads, but still had lasting ear drum damage. One child suffered permanent hearing loss.

Should your child get hold of a few water expanding beads and accidentally ingests them, call the Poisons Centre on 131126 immediately. This is a serious emergency, and requires the proper medical attention.

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