Purim cap pistol ammunition endangers young children

Science and Health

When the Hebrew month of Adar begins, as it did this week, it traditionally launches a time of joy because the holiday of Purim is just around the corner. But it’s not a happy time when small children swallow plastic explosives used for cap pistols that are sold illegally.

A seven-month-old baby, who swallowed such a dangerous foreign object that ended up in his trachea, was rushed to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center (SZMC), where doctors had to perform emergency surgery under general anesthesia to pull it out.

“Caps used for toy guns come in a case that contains tiny pieces of plastic, and these pose a serious choking hazard,” they said. 

Thanks to quick monitoring and treatment, the baby was able to breathe naturally

The specialists of the pediatric and adult otolaryngology (ear-nose-and-throat) department, in cooperation with the specialists of the emergency medicine department, performed a comprehensive evaluation and examination during which the dangerous part was discovered right at the entrance to the trachea, posing a danger to the airway. 

Cap pistol ammunition. (credit: COURTESY SHAARE ZEDEK)

Dr. Jameel Ghantous who treated the toddler said that “the baby came to us drooling, hoarse and having trouble breathing. On examination, we saw that the part blocked the esophagus and the trachea. The challenge in surgery is, on the one hand, to extract the foreign body but to avoid damaging the surrounding tissues, as well as to prevent the foreign body from entering deeper into the trachea and pulmonary bronchus. With the help of the operating room anesthesia team and using the endoscope, the tiny part was successfully located and extracted,” he continued. 

Babies can swallow objects in a few seconds

The baby’s mother said that the swallowing incident happened within a few seconds in a game between the toddler and his brother.

“Usually, we are very alert when it comes to creating a safe environment for toddlers. We have eight children, and it has never happened to us that a child choked. From the moment of the swallowing, [the baby] had difficulty breathing. We were all terrified. We immediately arrived at Shaare Zedek’s emergency room where we were told he would need surgery. There was a great fear for his safety, but the professional and dedicated staff reassured us. The stuck part was successfully extracted and we are full of emotional gratitude to God for the great miracle that happened to us and the team who saved his life.”

She urged parents to explain to others the dangers involved in leaving small game parts and foreign bodies that could endanger the lives of babies.

Dr. Anat Dinur, a SZMC ENT surgeon, added that especially during the holidays when there are plenty of toys and sweets given to and reachable by children, we come across cases mainly in newborns until three years old of inhaling or swallowing foreign bodies. The diameter of the entrance to a toddler’s trachea is on average four millimeters and may be easily blocked. In many cases, parental vigilance and a quick response help save lives. However, it is better to prevent these cases in the first place by keeping tiny and dangerous objects out of the reach of small children and babies.” 

Dinur called on parents to be careful about using illegal fireworks, firecrackers and rockets, as well as sprays, weapons of all kinds, laser pointers and the like “so that we all have a happy holiday.”