Non-food items I have put in my mouth and what you can do to stop your kid from doing it

Non-food items I have put in my mouth and what you can do to stop your kid from doing it

By Carrie Eckles

I’m not a parent, yet I always find myself giving out—I won’t say “advice”, because it’s not so much that, but—helpful hints about dealing with children. The reason for this has nothing to do with the fact that I was always the third parent in my family, if not the parent of my parents at times. They weren’t irresponsible by any means; rather, no parent on earth was prepared for me and my sister. We were absolutely insane. Like, I’m talking on a Clifford level.

So, I’ve seen it all, not because I’m a seasoned mom of many decades, but because I’ve done it all. And if I didn’t do it, my sister did it. And if my sister didn’t do it, my parents probably did it. (We will not discuss the inadvertent creation of chlorine gas incident that prevented me from enjoying much of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics or the time that someone tried to refuse medical attention during a fit of bee sting-induced anaphylaxis.)



Babies will try to eat anything!

Babies will try to eat anything!

Yes, I’ve seen it all. And today, I want to talk about one of the things I’ve done that worries many parents. Usually, this problem is localized to small children, but as you will soon learn, that is not always the case. I want to talk about that pesky problem of your child putting non-food items into their mouths. And to prevent embarrassment and fury from my friends and relations, I will only include my own personal incidences.

Non-food items I have put into my mouth in rough chronological order:

1989: A giant clip-on earring.
Result: I choked.


I want to stress this was NOT my mom’s fault. I’m the first baby. I’m the prototype. First time moms are notoriously careful. They do all their research, and my mom was no exception. Back then—and perhaps they still have them—were these things where you could allegedly test an item to see if your baby would be able to choke on it. It was supposed to mimic the size of a child’s windpipe; if the item in question passed the test, it was supposedly unchokeable. So, naturally, when the giant earring passed the choke test, my mom wore them without fear and didn’t think anything of it.

But folks, you see, these choke tester thingies are NOT expandable, like a child’s windpipe.  So, being a recently crawling infant, I had to test out the world. I saw something gold and shiny and naturally had to stick it in my mouth. I was less than a year old, so I really had no life experience to tell me this was a bad idea otherwise.

The remedy: The earring had a loop and Mom was able to grab it and yank it out before I turned blue and she promptly called the doctor hysterically. The knowledge you should gain from this: Your kid can literally choke on anything. Don’t trust choke testers. Everything is suspect. (Especially if it’s shiny.)

1994: Carpet cleaner.
Result: Got sicker.

We used to have carpet back then and there was some stain or something, so Mom was using a remover that you had to leave and it had a towel over it. Well, I was sick with a horrible stomach virus. A wave of sickness overcame me and I tried to run to the toilet, but only made it as far as the hallway.

I’ll be honest: I suck at throwing up. It racks my whole body and it is one of the physical ailments I dread most. I’ve only thrown up a handful of times in my life. (I didn’t even puke during appendicitis OR the resulting peritonitis, which is astonishing.) So, I’m throwing up on the carpet that is in the process of having the stain removed. I’m miserably on my hands and knees. I notice a towel conveniently on the floor and as a knee-jerk reaction, I decide to wipe my mouth out with it. (Yeah, I know—not smart.) Anyway, it was saturated with carpet cleaner and I get sick again. And that, friends, is how I know what carpet cleaner tastes like. So, next time I say “That tastes like carpet cleaner”, believe me.

The remedy: The helpful people at Poison Control who said my mouth and nose must be thoroughly rinsed (I didn’t swallow it, which was in my favor). The knowledge you should gain from this: Always warn family members when you’re going to leave carpet cleaner on the floor. Your kid innately assumes that whatever is on the floor is safe, because, chances are, they play on the floor.

1994 (again): Pen ink.
Result: Embarrassingly purple mouth and slightly bitter taste.

Remember how you used to be able to buy pen ink refills in those little rubber-y/plastic-y tubes? Well, when my six-year-old molars were coming in, I was desperate for relief and happened to be doing homework. Needless to say, I bit down too hard and my mouth was filled with black ink (which doesn’t taste as bad as you might imagine). I knew enough to try not to swallow. I wasn’t scared, but my parents freaked out so bad.

The remedy: Poison Control said that the type of ink I got in my mouth wasn’t that bad and, once again, my mouth had to be washed out. It was purple for a while. The knowledge you should gain from this: I don’t care if your child is cutting their first teeth or their wisdom teeth, they are going to have the urge to gnaw on something that massages their miserable gums. And, if they’re not paying attention (or if they’re really young), they will give into this innate urge. So, if your child is having problems cutting teeth, don’t assume they will come to you and tell you about the problem. A young kid is going to assume that this maddening discomfort is normal and potentially take matters into their own hands. Ask your pediatrician or dentist what you can do to prevent your child from chewing ink refills.

2003: Glow-in-the-dark spray gel
Result: I got high in the worst way (and I mean that literally).

By the age of fifteen, I thought I was past getting non-food objects into my mouth. In my defense, this was in no way my fault.
My sister and our friends were dressing up the house for a small soiree (if it can be called that) and one of the cool new things that came out was this glow-in-the-dark gel spray that, if you sprayed it on surfaces in your house, would glow in the dark and I suppose look festive in the event of the party. And while it claimed that it was easily cleaned up, I abstained from the decorating as I knew that it would be up to me, as the eldest daughter of the house in question, to clean up on my own. (Cinderella, I was.)

So, I’m protesting the use of this unknown gunk while our friend is spraying it in midair. The gooey mist goes right into my mouth and the bizarreness of it hits me with such force that I swallow as a reflex. I start to feel really weird, really quick. Luckily, my parents were the sort who made it a point to stay home when we teenagers thought we might have a party. They kept to their bedroom and watched science fiction back when the channel was actually called SciFi. So, I knew where to find them. And I ran to them and frantically explained what happened, because I felt myself quickly losing my senses in the most uncomfortable way possible, as my lungs were really starting to burn.

The remedy: Once again, we called our old friend Poison Control. Poison Control said that, while the product would definitely cause irritation, it was not fatal. To deactivate the glow-in-the-dark aspect and relieve discomfort, I was obliged to sit in cold air for two hours. It was 17 degrees Fahrenheit that night. I was miserable. And I subsequently banned all glow-in-the-dark crap from the premises.

The knowledge you should gain from this: Children and teenagers love glow-in-the-dark crap. I mean, I loved the hell out of that stuff back in 1996 in the form of glow sticks at the local skating rink. Granted, a glow-in-the-dark spray had no appeal to me. Not so much for my sister and friends, however. So, parents, don’t let your kids buy random novelty products without thinking through the implications. If it’s glow-in-the-dark and meant to be sprayed through the air, it’s probably a bad idea—or, at the very least, messy.

2005: Hand sanitizer
Result: I got drunk in the worst possible way. Also, mild gastrointestinal irritation.

It was innocent enough. I was just talking to my mom. I had a rather large dollop of hand sanitizer in my hand and since I was talking distractedly, I was probably slathering it on with a little too much animation. A blob of it randomly flew into my mouth and, once again, out of shock, I swallowed. I didn’t know the goo could travel like that. It didn’t taste all that great and I soon began to feel a bit woozy.

The remedy: Poison Control once again received the honor of our patronage. Now, it’s very important you know I haven’t fact-checked any of these remedies they gave me, or anything they’ve ever told me or my parents. When you’re in the moment, you just follow instructions and each incidence is unique and should be treated as such. That said, all I can tell you is what they told us. Once again, I don’t know how accurate this is, so if you act solely based on what you’ve read here, you’re not very bright and no one but you is responsible.

Basically, they said that the type of alcohol in the brand in question was, or was similar too (memory is kinda fuzzy), the type of alcohol that one drinks in alcoholic beverages. But, the problem was, it was super concentrated. They told my mom I was about to get very drunk and should drink a lot of water. I did. I don’t have much memory of it, but it should be noted that I was a seventeen-year-old lightweight.

The knowledge you should gain from this: The older your kid gets, the more likely it is to literally be entirely unintentional. Hand sanitizer tastes disgusting and I’m embarrassed to admit that, since that whole thing, I’ve actually gotten it in my eye twice. So, even with prior knowledge, and extra care, I am not entirely immune.

The knowledge you should gain from all of my personal experiences combined:



Even adults put things in their mouth that don't belong sometimes

Even adults put things in their mouth that don’t belong sometimes

You can be the most careful parent, like my mom, and the most ready-for-action parent, like my dad. Together, you and your partner can be super amazing parents. But, nobody is perfect. You can’t watch your kid 24/7. When your kid is young, they are curious about their world. When they are older, most of this crazy stuff happens on accident. Whatever the case, non-food objects will inevitably end up in your child’s mouth. What separates the good parents (like mine) from the bad parents (that I suppose are out there) is knowing what to do when your kid chokes or is potentially poisoned.

A good rule of thumb is to know the Heimlich maneuver and other saving-someone-from-choking things. Also be prepared to quickly call 911 if that fails. Safety is key. The instant you realize your efforts are not helping, dial that number! If your child is becoming blue, purple, or silent, that is a serious emergency and they need immediate medical attention.

Another good rule of thumb is, if you think your child is poisoned, call Poison Control or 911. If it’s something minor or something you’re unsure about, Poison Control can point you in the right direction. If it’s something you’re certain is fatal, like a bottle of drain cleaner, call 911 without hesitation. Sometimes there are things you can do in the meantime while waiting for the ambulance and the operator will likely direct you if such measures can be taken.

Even the best parents don’t have eyes in the back of your head. Learn from my crazy-ass stories and adjust accordingly. And that, my friends, is my non-parent parenting tip for the day.

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