Common children’s sensory toy poses life-threatening risk

Health Canada is issuing a warning about a common children’s sensory toy.

The federal agency says water beads, also called hydro-orbs, sensory beads, or jelly beads, may pose life-threatening risks to young children.

The beads contain a water-absorbing gel which allows them to grow to nearly 2,000 times their original size.

Health Canada says there have been reported cases of children ingesting the beads, causing them life-threatening illnesses, and requiring surgical intervention.

In the United States, there have been at least 248 known water bead cases reported to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) over the past five years. Of the reports related to water beads: 112 were involved in ingestion, 100 involved ear canal insertion, 35 involved nasal cavity insertion, and one involved eye injury.

If parents or caregivers suspect a child has ingested water beads, Health Canada says to call the Canadian Poison Centre hotline at 1-844-POISON-X. They also advise for looking out for symptoms such as:

  • vomiting,
  • abdominal or chest pain,
  • abdominal swelling or soreness,
  • constipation,
  • lethargy,
  • drooling,
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing, and
  • loss of appetite.

Health Canada says that parents and caregivers should seek medical intervention if the beads are placed in a child’s nose or ear.

They also recommend parents and caregivers of children under the age of five avoid having water beads in their household or classroom.

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