Here's some good news for worried parents whose young children have ingested a LEGO (or two). A new study by pediatric researchers concluded that the toy should resurface in its poop within a few days. They know this because the individuals tested voluntarily swallowed the heads of the LEGO figures and monitored how long it took them to retrieve them.
Yes, this is a real scientific paper, published in the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health with the title "Everything is amazing: do not forget the LEGOs". It's by the same group of pediatricians behind the popular blog Do not Forget the Bubbles. "We finally answered the fire question: how long does it take for a LEGO head to swallow?" Co-founder and co-author of DFTB Tessa Davis tweeted. "This is a dedication to pediatrics, but it has been worth advancing in science and pediatric emergency care."
We joked, but this really is referring to a valid concern. As Bruce Y. Lee, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Forbes, young children love to swallow things, especially coins. There have been previous studies examining the passage of coins through the digestive tract, notably a 1971 article that found most of the coins passed harmlessly within three to six days.
But no one had looked closely at the second most commonly swallowed item: small pieces of toy. And the heads of LEGO figurines are particularly tempting for the child's gastronomically curious.
How would you find six adults (three men and three women) willing to swallow LEGO parts? Davis et al. recruited their subjects from the online community of pediatric hospital professionals. They examined anyone with previous gastrointestinal surgery, trouble swallowing objects, or a "fecal matter aversion."
Each subject kept a "feces journal", recording their bowel movements before and after swallowing the LEGO heads. They assessed the frequency and laxity of their feces based on the research team's hardness and stool transit score (SHAT). (Who said pediatricians do not have a sense of humor?) After swallowing the toy, they spent the next three days examining their own poop to determine when the LEGO head reappeared. The number of days it took to get past and retrieve it was dubbed the Find and Retrieve Time Score (FART).
A poor father never recovered LEGO head.
Five of the six subjects had FART scores ranging from 1.14 days to 3.04 days, for an average of 1.71 days (about 41 hours). And a poor guy never recovered LEGO head. We now you know this subject is co-author of paper and pediatric consultant Damien Roland, who said the CBC He kept looking in his own poop for two weeks, waiting for the toy part to reappear, unsuccessfully. Maybe a little more bulk would help?
As Lee points out, this is a small study, focused on adults and not on babies. The SHAT and FART scores may vary more widely in the general population. Nor was it a blind study, as the authors felt it would be asking too much of the partners or colleagues in the study participants to poke poop on their behalf. And other small toy parts of varied shapes can take shorter or longer times to pass through the body.
"A toy object quickly passes through uncomplicated adult subjects," the authors conclude, adding an important caveat: "Parents should be advised not to look for the object in the feces as it is difficult to find." But maybe you also do not swallow the LEGO figure heads in the first place, okay?
IT HURTS: Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health, 2018. 10.1111 / jpc.14309 (About DOIs).