Health & Wellness

Mom warns about fidget spinner choking hazard after girl needs surgery

A Texas mom is warning about the potential choking hazard of fidget spinners, that hot new toy fascinating kids and frustrating some teachers.

Kelly Rose Joniec says her daughter Britton ended up in the emergency room after accidentally swallowing part of the gadget, which then had to be surgically removed from her throat. The family declined to be interviewed, but local media report Britton is 10 years old and is out of the hospital.

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Fidget spinner parts can be dangerous, Texas mom warns

Play Video - 1:17

Fidget spinner parts can be dangerous, Texas mom warns

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Joniec, who lives in the Houston area, was driving the girl home from a swim meet on Saturday when she heard Britton “make an odd retching noise in the back seat,” she wrote on Facebook.

“Looking back in the mirror, I saw her face turning red and drool pouring from her mouth — she could utter noises but looked panicked so I immediately pulled over,” Joniec wrote.

“She pointed to her throat saying she'd swallowed something, so I attempted Heimlich but there was no resistance. She said she'd put part of her fidget spinner in her mouth to clean it and somehow swallowed it.”

An ambulance took the girl to Texas Children's Hospital, where an X-ray showed the spinner bushing lodged in her esophagus. Doctors had to use an endoscope to find and remove the metal object during surgery that required general anesthesia, Joniec wrote. TODAY has reached out to the hospital for comment.

Courtesy Kelly Rose Joniec
An X-ray reveals where part of the fidget spinner became lodged in the girl's throat.

“Fortunately we had a positive outcome, but it was pretty scary there for a while,” Joniec noted.

“From this I wish to offer some word of caution to parents. Fidget spinners are the current craze so they are widely distributed. Kids of all ages may be getting them, but not all spinners come with age-appropriate warnings. The bushings pop out easily, so if you have young kids… keep in mind that these present a potential choking hazard.”

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Fidget spinners have become so popular that some schools are banning them

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Fidget spinners have become so popular that some schools are banning them

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Other families are issuing similar alerts, with a Georgia grandmother warning that a fidget spinner came apart in her 3-year-old grandson's hands.

Fidget spinners come with various instructions, depending on the manufacturer. One bestseller on Amazon.com noted the gadget was "suitable" for kids over 10. Another fidget spinner sold by Learning Express had a clear warning: "CHOKING HAZARD — Small parts. Not for children under 3 years."

A pediatrician's take

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle pediatrician who writes the Seattle Mama Doc blog, had this advice:

• Keep the spinners away from children under age 3. Only toys that meet regulations set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission are suitable for this age range.

• For kids ages 3-6, Swanson recommended only allowing them to play with a fidget spinner under supervision.

• For older children, it would be impractical to keep watch 24/7 to monitor how they play with a pocket-size gadget, she said. Swanson suggested making your children aware of the choking hazard by bringing up this incident and saying: "You can play with this with your hands, but keep it out of your mouth. The fidget spinners haven't been around very long, they might break apart in little pieces and I just don't want that to be in your body." Kids don't want to hurt themselves, so they'll pay attention, she said.

Swanson wasn't surprised a 10-year-old would put the gadget in her mouth.

"Think about how kids chew on pencils," she said. "These spinners potentially capture attention of kids of all ages, and all ages may fiddle, fidget, put them in their mouth... An adult could do this just as easily as a child."

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