The Risk of Water Beads

With their bright colours and squishy feel, water beads are especially appealing to young children. When dry, water beads are tiny and can easily be swallowed without detection.

As they bathe in stomach fluids, they expand to many times their original size, posing a serious risk of blockage in a child’s bowel.

Water beads are readily available to buy online. They may be sold as sensory toys or used in pellet or water guns. Most come with no warnings about the danger of children swallowing them.

This Instagram post from Dr Niamh Lynch shows just how easy it is to order water beads without realizing the dangers.

Five top tips for water bead safety

  1. Keep water beads away from babies and young children
  2. If older children are using water beads, use a large tub with plenty of free space so stray beads can’t escape onto the floor
  3. Supervise older children when using water beads
  4. After use, check that all beads are safely cleared away
  5. Store dry water beads in a closed container out of children’s reach

Some older children with special educational needs also put things in their mouths. Take real care if using water beads as sensory toys.

In an emergency

If you suspect a child has swallowed a water bead, seek medical help immediately. Symptoms can include vomiting, lethargy, a swollen belly and problems opening the bowels.

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