Baby undergoes surgery after choking on Christmas decoration

WATCH: With the holiday season among us, doctors and researchers are warning parents of young children to be vigilant with decorations.

A nine-month-old girl had to undergo emergency surgery after swallowing a star-shaped piece of holiday decor, according to a recent case study. 

“We believe the potential dangers associated with ingestion of these particular foreign bodies deserve attention,” wrote doctors Paul Heyworth and Ryan Shulman in the Medical Journal of Australia in November.

The one-time incident is now a warning for all parents to be wary of holiday health hazards.

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The medical journal states doctors at the Gold Coast University Hospital in Queensland, Australia were puzzled when a little girl was brought in following a serious choking episode. Authors added that the girl’s mother saw her daughter spitting up blood. 

After being examined, doctors at first couldn’t find anything physically wrong and believed she had probably choked on her own spit.

Two days later, the girl was brought back to the hospital with a fever, trouble breathing, coughing and a reduced appetite. An examination revealed she was taking far too many breaths per minute and had a red throat. This time doctors thought she might have bronchitis. 

“She was diagnosed with a viral upper respiratory tract infection with possible lymphadenitis,” the doctors wrote. 

A few days later, her symptoms escalated ⁠— including a mass on the side of her neck, reduced blood flow and fatigue. Doctors realized something was lodged in her throat. 

An ultrasound revealed the true cause of her discomfort: a large mass of pus had formed in the back of her throat, narrowing her airway. An object was there too.

A confetti star had become “embedded in the baby’s windpipe,” stated the doctors in the report. 

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“A star-shaped density was discovered at the margin of the abscess,” they explained. 

The star was removed and the baby made a full recovery with no additional concerns, but the study authors are hoping this case will send a message to parents about the dangers of Christmas decorations around children. 

“While uncommon, the potential for similar cases to present over these Christmas holidays exists,” they said.  “Despite their flexible nature, the sharp points of the confetti stars appear to increase the risk of lodgement.”

Safety tips for the holiday season

In December 2018, Health Canada published a safety alert reminding Canadians to keep holiday decorations away from young children.

“Some may be easily swallowed and harmful to their health,” the report stated. They also reminded families to keep metal, sharp or breakable tree ornaments, and those with removable parts or batteries, away from kids. 

Choking and suffocation account for almost 40 per cent of unintentional injuries for infants under a year old, according to 2012 data from the Canadian Paediatric Society. 

Trees can also become a safety hazard if they aren’t maintained correctly, according to safety tips from Health Canada. 

Dispose of your tree as soon as the holidays are over or when the needles start to fall, they advise. Dry trees are a health hazard and can go up in flames if they aren’t thrown out when they should be.

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New toys and gifts could become choking hazards for young children too, the agency added. 

Parents should always read age labels and safety messages that come with the toys, along with disposing of all packaging immediately. 

Supervise your child with new toys and show them how to use them safely if they are unsure, the agency continued. The majority of toy recalls are due to small part choking hazards, according to a 2013 report by Health Canada. 

Purchasing a choking tube, which can be found at many toy stores, helps parents to check the size of objects to ensure they are safe, said parenting expert Alyson Schafer in a previous Global News report. 

The tube replicates the throat of a toddler. If an object is small enough to fit in the tube, then it’s a choking hazard, she explained.

— With files from Global News reporter Dani-Elle Dubé

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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