Hard to Swallow Advice From Dr. Saad Saad

Dr. Saad Saad is a skilled pediatric surgeon who has forty years of experience removing foreign objects from the esophagus (food pipe) and the trachea (windpipe). During his career, Dr. Saad has helped over 1,000 children, aged as young as six months old to as old as fourteen years of age, get food and other objects stuck in the esophagus and trachea. We were able to interview him recently about his experiences in this specific area of expertise.


What Happens When Kids Swallow a Foreign Object?

Kids are curious enough to put a lot of things in their mouth and swallow them. This is especially true when it comes to young kids; there is a reason why “terrible twos” is a tough time to be a parent. Most of the time, the object will pass through the food pipe and into the stomach without serious complications, but sometimes an object can get stuck in the food pipe or accidentally go down the windpipe. Common signs of a stuck object include trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, and wheezing.

Peanuts, hot dogs, and coins—these are examples of common objects that can get stuck when a child swallows them. Larger objects like coins and hot dogs typically get stuck in the food pipe, while smaller objects like peanuts typically get stuck in the windpipe.

If a child is less than 6 years of age, to get an object unstuck you can turn them upside down and hold them by their legs. While holding them, tap on their back and most of the time the stuck object will pop right out. If the child is older, perform the Heimlich maneuver by standing behind the child, wrapping your hands around their waist, and thrusting your hands into their abdomen just below the rib cage. Again, most of the time the child will cough the object back out. But if these maneuvers don’t help, then the child should be taken to the emergency room.

If you see a child swallow an object, do not try to scoop it out with your finger. Trying to scoop it out can cause further blockage and push the object further down into the body of the child.

In the emergency room, an X-ray can help determine if an object is indeed stuck in the food pipe or the windpipe. Unfortunately, an X-ray can only detect about 50 percent of objects that get stuck; a coin, for example, can clearly be seen on an X-ray but not a peanut. If everything looks normal on the X-ray but the child still shows symptoms of a stuck object, then the next step is to perform a bronchoscopy or an esophagoscopy

Dr. Saad has personally performed many endoscopies and bronchoscopies during his career. In fact, he even invented an improvement for endoscopes to help him and other doctors better perform this procedure. Endoscopes are optical devices that are used to look inside the food pipe or the windpipe of the patient. These can be extremely helpful in giving a doctor a clear picture inside the patient’s body when neck, chest and abdomen   x rays  are not helpful. But our esophagus and trachea produce a lot of liquids which can cause trouble to visualize the foreign bodies by fogging up the lens and obstructing the doctor’s view.

Normally, a doctor would have to take out the endoscope and use a vacuum to suck away liquid blocking their view before proceeding with further examination. But Dr. Saad invented a way to convert the anti-fog port on the side of the endoscope into a suction and irrigation device port. This way, the doctor can suck away any liquid that is blocking their view without needing to take the endoscope out of the patient’s body, saving time and making this process more efficient.


Dangerous Objects and Dr. Saad’s Personal Expertise

With his 40 years of personal expertise, Dr. Saad described two objects to be particularly dangerous when swallowed by a child.

Batteries are the most dangerous out of all foreign bodies that stuck in the esophagus when swallowed by a child. Since they are relatively small, a child can pick them up and swallow them without much trouble. And remember that in addition to common AA or AAA batteries, you likely have the much-smaller—and much easier to swallow—circular batteries in watches, cameras, calculators, and other small electronics. When swallowed, a battery can leak the acid that is inside of it, causing serious burns and severe injuries to a child esophagus or stomach. This is why it is extremely important to keep a careful watch when a child is playing with electronic toys, TV remotes, cameras, or any other electronic device that runs on battery power.

Peanuts are also surprisingly dangerous objects to swallow, especially for a small child. Since peanuts are small, they are more likely to get stuck in the windpipe than the food pipe. When they do get stuck in the windpipe, the liquid that is in our lungs can make them soft and allow them to expand, causing further blockage. Dr. Saad also described that it is difficult for doctors to take a peanut out of the windpipe. Using tweezers to grab a hold of the peanut can easily fragment it and allow the crumbles to scatter further through the lungs.

As a result, Dr. Saad suggests parents follow a few golden rules to ensure that kids avoid getting foreign objects stuck in their food pipe or windpipe. First, don’t allow kids under two years old to have hot dogs. Hot dogs are the perfect size to completely block the food-pipe  if not chewed properly. Second, don’t allow kids under the age of seven to eat peanuts. Peanuts can be extremely dangerous when they get stuck in the windpipe. Third, watch kids carefully during playtime to ensure they do not put anything they shouldn’t in their mouth. This, of course, can be incredibly hard to do, but it is important to be aware of your child’s surroundings. Also, watch out for siblings trying to put something in their sister’s or brother’s mouth.


Dr. Saad Saad’s Personal Stories

Dr. Saad Saad shows a display of foreign objects
Dr. Saad Saad displays foreign objects.

In his office, Dr. Saad has a showcase of foreign objects he had removed during his career. The objects in the case include common things, like coins, as well as more personal objects, like a locket with a picture of a sibling inside. Because of the number of coins that children swallow, Dr. Saad has learned to differentiate how long a coin has been inside of a child simply based on its color. If the coin is shiny, it was swallowed only six to eight hours before being taken out. But if the coin is darker it has been inside for a day. And if it’s rusted, then it’s been inside for almost a month!

The biggest object Dr. Saad has removed from a child’s food pipe during his career is a toothbrush. A 14-year-old child came in to him with abdominal pain. The pain was concentrated high up, just below the chest, which is not typical of abdominal pain. Despite the fact that the child insisted she did not swallow anything, this led Dr. Saad to suspect that a foreign was stuck in the child’s body. Indeed, the X-rays proved Dr. Saad right and he was able to remove the toothbrush safely.

The sweetest story when it comes to a stuck object that Dr. Saad has removed comes from a 6-year-old girl. As happens with all young kids, one of the girl’s teeth was getting loose and was about to fall out. Sadly for the girl, as she was coughing, she managed to swallow the tooth and get it stuck in her windpipe. This meant that the Tooth Fairy would not be there for her because the tooth did not fall out properly! But the Tooth Fairy did count on Dr. Saad. Dr. Saad was able to safely remove the tooth from the girl’s windpipe and gave it to  her parents who gave it  to the  the Tooth Fairy who brought  back to the girl next right!

Removing a foreign object from inside the patient’s body can be difficult. It requires the right expertise, especially when it comes to removing objects from the windpipe or food-pipe. Dr. Saad has developed that expertise over his long career and has had great success helping children in the process.


Read more about Dr. Saad Saad: http://medicaldailytimes.com/medical-inventions/life-saving-medical-inventions-dr-saad-saad/3570/

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About the Author: BJ Hetherington

BJ is the lead editor of Meical Daily Times. Fluent in French and proficient in Spanish and Arabic, he focuses on diseases and conditions. BJ is a graduate of York University In Toronto. When BJ isn't busy writing his next piece, he can often be found running the streets of the GTA.


  1. very informative article.learn lots of things that was unknown.my daughter swallowed a mancala marble….in upper stomach for three days but she is good now.i should definitely try it if i face this problem again.thanks for sharing this helpful article.

  2. I think it’s important that parents should know the correct method to help their child in case they swallow something that gets stuck in their windpipe. Additionally, I think knowing the Heimlich maneuver is important regardless, if the person choking is a teenager or adult. I thought the article was interesting and intrigued me when I found out that Dr. Saad pulled out a toothbrush for a child’s windpipe.

  3. This is very informative and well described. It’s easy to understand all the points being made about Dr. Saad. I enjoyed it a lot and will share what I learned with all my friends.

  4. This is such a great article with very important information for anyone with children. And who would have thought that batteries are the most dangerous out of all foreign bodies that stuck in the esophagus when swallowed by a child. Good information for all.

  5. This article was very informative. I myself have young children who tend to put almost anything they can in their mouths. I never knew that peanuts were dangerous if they get stuck. It is very important to watch your children and make sure they are not putting anything in their mouth. Thanks for the information.

  6. It’s a very scary thing when children swallow small objects and they become stuck. This was a good article on this subject and I am glad to read about a doctor that specializes in this.

  7. Good read! The worst day of my life was when my nephew was chocking on his toy. I will never forget that day. Had I known this info prior, perhaps it could have averted the situation easier…

  8. I didn’t know peanuts were so dangerous! I think I’m going to have to be more careful when dealing with any small hard objects in the kitchen now.

  9. Very interesting and useful article. Dr. Saad is very good pediatric surgeon with great experience and this article is very helpful!

  10. This article was very interesting. It really makes you realize that children must be looked after and cared for even when you least expect it. I felt assured reading this article knowing that Dr. Saad is very good at his job.

  11. Pretty scary to imagine that toothbrush in that windpipe.. It must have been awful for that child’s parents. Great article and very helpful in reminding me to pick up after my kids a little more often.

  12. wow great , it’s a very helpful article. i learn from this article many important information’s. Thank you very much for awesome article.

  13. I never knew that there were things that you could do at home to take foreign objects out of children. is there something we can do for gum?

  14. Dr. Saad is doing good by helping children. Kids tend to put anything in their mouths when they are little. When they are real little they like to bite too. Good tips.

  15. Thanks for the great informative article. Really wondered to know about , “What Happens When Kids Swallow a Foreign Object” from the article.

  16. Nice informative article from a great doctor. I wish more people knew about this kind of stuff, its difficult to internalize but its very important to know.

  17. This is a very informative article. I have two small children and will be on the alert when they play, as they are in the age ranges for those objects to get stuck in their body. My eldest child had stuck playdoh in her nose. While it didn’t obstruct breathing or hurt her, it scared me so badly.

  18. Dr.Saad is one of the most interesting doctors that ive heard of in a long time i love his positive energy and attitude he eould be a great doctor in Columbus Ohio

  19. This a very informative article for parents and caregivers. Dr. Saad’s background and personal stories are fascinating, especially since he invented an enhancement for endoscopes. What I most liked about the article was the advice on what to do and not to do when a child swallows a foreign object. This was helpful and entertaining to read.

  20. Quite an interesting article, very informative for me an my 3 children. I’ll make sure to keep this in mind any situation occurs.

  21. Some great advice on this article, kids can be so maddening sometimes ( I know I was! ) swallowing money and sticking their fingers in electrical sockets… I think I probably did both as a child. I love the story about the Tooth Fairy, that’s very sweet, and how ingenuous to create the “sucky” thing so that the scope doesn’t have to be removed and the procedure started all over again.

  22. Specially those who are in need to uplifting their health and career, the article is quite informative. There are both pros and cons of the health, so be careful not to skip the reading and getting more information. It is specially good to those parents who have a child and usually swallow the objects. Enjoyable.

  23. Gosh, it’s hideously scary to me that a toothbrush was stuck to a poor child’s windpipe! This is a very eye opening article, especially to would be parents like myself. I am so happy I came across this article, keep up the good work!

  24. Dr. Saad is a hero. He is truely a remarkable men. Anyone who is willing to give major surgeries to needy children for free will receive many blessings. I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me those are traditional values. When values, thoughts, feelings, and actions are in alignment, a person becomes focused and character is strengthened. Thank you for this fantastic article.

  25. Wow this is a very informative article. Dr.Saad is one of the most interesting doctors that ive heard of in a long time i love his positive energy. I most liked about the article was the advice on what to do and not to do when a child swallows a foreign object. Parents would love this so much keep it up. This is very much a parents worst fear! An article any worrying parent might give a read. This was helpful and entertaining to read.

  26. wow as a new mother I can honestly say choking accidents are my biggest concern, so horrible but i got some valuable information from the article.

  27. Kids are very hard to manage. As I was reading the article I felt that they must not be left unattended. The whole story scares me. It’s a relief to know about Dr. Saad. He has got amazing expertise. God Bless him.

  28. This is a very informative article. I have two small children and will be on the alert when they play, as they are in the age ranges for those objects to get stuck in their body. My eldest child had stuck playdoh in her nose. While it didn’t obstruct breathing or hurt her, it scared me so badly.

  29. I know that this is going to sound dumb but I would have never thought a hot dog wiener could be that dangerous, thinking about it now it is the perfect size to block a whole windpipe. Also the making sure siblings don’t put something in each other’s mouth is great advice, it happens ALL the time, especially if they are close in age.

  30. I’m not a parent but several of my friends have kids. It’s so stressful, especially when the kids are very young. I’d always be worried about missing something while childproofing my house!

  31. Dr Saad Sadd does an awesome good job and I’m sure he has saved many young lives. Tip on the hat for Dr Saad Saad.
    The sad part about this whole story is, a fair share of all those “accidents” happening could easily be prevented if the parents of small children would use a bit more common sense and pay more attention on how to make sure their kids actually could get their hands on and swallow any non-editable objects in the first place. Childproofing a home is the big secret that a lot of nowadays young parents still have not discovered.

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