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Water Beads & Children – The Dangers!

Children are generally curious by nature, but sometimes curiosity can put them in harm’s way. There is a rise in children becoming extremely ill and even dying from ingesting water-absorbing gel beads, also known as water beads. Many dangers come with small children playing with water beads, and we want to ensure that parents are aware of the hazardous nature of these beads and how to keep an eye out for potential exposure. Continue reading to learn more.

What are Water Beads? 

Water beads, as mentioned above, are water-absorbing gel beads. Other names for these tiny gel beads include hydro orbs, jelly beads, and crystal soil. They are made of super absorbent polymer chemicals, thus allowing them to soak up as much water as possible and create tiny pebble-sized beads. They initially start as small, intricate beads, and when submerged in water, they can grow 1,500 times their size. They have also been known to be used as play tools for children with sensory conditions and autism and can be dried out and re-used time after time. 

While most of these water beads come labeled as “non-toxic,” there is a rise in concerns about their safety as there are reports of children being harmed after ingesting water beads. 

Water Bead Dangers

Water beads can be found in vases, gardens, and children’s toys. The beads come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, making them so appealing to children. Small children who cannot distinguish that they are inedible can put them in their mouths, eventually swallowing them or putting them in their ears. 

As explained above, water beads expand when in contact with water; therefore, when they are ingested, they also expand inside the body. As they grow, they can create intestinal blockages, which can be life-threatening. Due to their small size, the beads may also not be detected on X-rays, making diagnosing even more difficult. 

Safety Tips 

If refraining from purchasing water beads is off the table for you, consider these tips to ensure your children remain safe. 

  • Wait until your child is at least five to purchase water beads.
  • Always supervise children if they are handling water beads.
  • Store your water beads in a sealed container and keep them where children cannot get to them.
  • Always sweep and vacuum immediately after playing with water beads, even if you do not have small children. These beads can also harm pets, so ensuring they are all picked up is crucial. Vacuuming the entire area is an excellent idea, as when they are dry, they can be as small as a pinhead, which is not always visible to the naked eye.
  • Seek treatment immediately or call 911 if your child has ingested a waterbed, even if it is just one!

Signs of Water Bead Ingestion

If your child is experiencing the following signs and symptoms, they may have swallowed one or more water beads:

  • Wheezing/Coughing
  • Constipation
  • No appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Drooling
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal soreness
  • Complaining of something in their throat or chest.
  • Stomach pains

How to get rid of Water Beads

Water beads can be thrown directly into the trash; however, if you live in a home with a curious young child, take precautionary measures to get rid of your water beads responsibly. Do you have reason to believe your child may get into the water beads in the trash? Immediately remove the garbage from your home. By throwing them into the trash, they will eventually biodegrade into the environment and are highly unlikely to cause any damage to the environment.  

At SuraMed Health Center, we care about your child’s health! We aim to help parents keep their children happy, healthy, and aware of unnecessary accidents. Reminder: If your child ingests a water bead or if you have reason to believe they have swallowed one, please seek immediate medical care. Staying proactive is vital! To schedule an appointment, contact your local clinic by visiting our website

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