What to do when your toddler eats ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ style tucker

It's fine for celebs in the jungle to eat odd stuff, but you don't want your tot trying bushtucker, dirt or worse. Here’s a guide to what's safe and what's not if your nipper samples something suspect

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Bugs and worms

Curious kids love popping odd things in their mouths, but no one wants to see their tot with a mouthful of worms…

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If it’s gone in…

“In the UK, bugs and worms are generally harmless,” says paediatrician Dr Ranjit Singh. “Children should be encouraged not to touch bugs though, because usually the bite or sting is more of a problem. Give him a drink to wash his mouth out and keep a close eye on him. If he starts to feel unwell, head to A&E.”

Sand and dirt

A handful of muck shouldn’t cause any major ill effects, but it’s a good idea to check sandpits and play areas for yucky things like cigarette butts or animal poo. Always remember to keep garden sandpits covered, 
as cats like to use them as loos.

If it’s gone in…

Give your tot a big drink of water and rinse his mouth out. “Again, it’s a question of watch and wait,” says Dr Singh. “Most children will be fine or may have a slight stomach upset. If you’re at all concerned, phone NHS Direct.”

Berries

Colourful berries can look yummy to a tot, and there are no set colours or sizes to tell you which wild berries are dangerous. “It’s probably best to teach your toddler not to pick anything from a bush or a tree, just to be on the safe side,” advises Sheila. If you’re going strawberry or blackberry picking, don’t eat any yourself and keep your tot close.

If it’s gone in…

“Swallowing berries is serious,” warns Ranjit. “Symptoms can include anything from stomach upsets to mouth swelling and breathing problems. It depends on what, and how much, your child’s ingested. If you think your tot’s eaten something odd, take him to A&E at once with a sample of the berry or its name if you know it.”

Dog or cat poo

If you have pets, you probably keep your garden poo-free, but it’s different when you’re out. If you need to ask a friend to de-poo their garden, do it, as a bit of awkwardness is better than your tot tucking into doggy do.

If it’s gone in…

Although it’s revolting, your little one will usually be fine. Encourage him to rinse out his mouth and offer him a drink of water. There’s a slight risk of toxoplasmosis, toxocara or cryptosporidium – parasites causing unpleasant, but mostly harmless, symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting – but severe illness is quite rare. “I’d advise parents to keep a close eye on their child. He may be sick, as that’s the body’s natural response. But if he becomes noticeably unwell, head to A&E,” says Dr Singh.

Cigarette butts

“These are unlikely to be dangerous unless large quantities have been ingested,” says Ranjit. Chomping on old fag ends could also be a choking hazard, so, if you’re in a park or pub garden, do a check and remove any stray butts.

If it’s gone in…

“Cigarette ends do contain harmful chemicals so I would watch and wait to see if the child becomes unwell, and take them to A&E if they do,” says Dr Singh. Symptoms to look out for include vomiting, nausea, lethargy, gagging and a pale or flushed appearance.

Grass, leaves and twigs

Grass is pretty harmless, but some common shrubs and trees, including yew, rhododendron and laburnum, are toxic. “It may be an idea to check with a garden centre what is and isn’t safe for your garden,” says Sheila Merrill, public health adviser for Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). Small twigs can be a choking hazard if they become lodged in a child’s throat, which can quickly become very serious.

If it’s gone in…

“If your child’s already coughing, encourage him to cough it up,” says Ranjit Singh. “Don’t try to put your hand in his mouth to fish it out as you may push it down and lodge the item. If he can’t cough or is having difficulty breathing, call 999 immediately.”

Batteries

If swallowed, batteries can pose a serious risk as they contain poisons and can cause choking. Sheila says: “If a toy says it’s not suitable for those under 3, it may be because it contains a battery, so don’t let him have it.”

If it’s gone in…

“Go straight to A&E,” says Ranjit. “Some batteries can leak, which is dangerous because of the chemicals, or they can get stuck on their way down. Once at hospital, your child will be given an x-ray to see where the battery is. Usually it’ll make its way out without any problems but you must get your child checked immediately.”

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