Gel Balls Are Dangerous For Young Children
September 18, 2012

Doctors Caution Parents About The Hazards Of Gel Ball Toys For Young Children

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Following a procedure to remove a large gel ball from the inside of the intestines of a baby girl, a group of surgeons in Texas are recommending that parents pay more attention to the toys they give to their children during playtime.

The doctors wrote about Water Balz, a set of colored balls by DuneCraft Inc., in a study that was recently published in the journal Pediatrics. They explained how the balls can grow from small to large when placed in water and how the toys can be problematic for orally fixated toddlers, such as the eight-month-old baby girl in Texas who had been brought in for stomach problems but then discovered to have ingested one of the Water Balz. The x-rays of the child showed that the small intestine was distended due to the toy and, over a period of 48 hours, the girl´s stomach grew larger and larger.

"It goes in small and grows on the inside and may not come out," remarked Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children´s Hospital, in an article by Reuters Health. "The blockage allows fluid and gas to accumulate, it is just like you step on a hose.”

According to ABC News, the child had symptoms like vomiting bile, intense constipation, and a distended belly.

"There is a tendency to wait and wait," Olutoye, who also serves as an associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, told ABC News. "We were fortunate enough that we did [surgery] early enough."

The child was later sent in for surgery, where the surgeons cut the intestine open to take out the 3.5 centimeter Water Balz. With products like these becoming more common on the market, doctors advise parents to be aware of the dangers that can come about if the toy is ingested. In addition, the pressure caused by something like Water Balz can cause the intestine to be ruptured.

"If this is not taken care of really quickly, there can actually be a perforation“¦ and you can die from it," Olutoye told Reuters Health.

According to Reuters Health, Grant Cleveland, Chief Executive Officer of DuneCraft, stated that he was “sorry to learn of the incident” and that the Water Balz product has warnings on the label that specify that the toy is for children who are ages three and up.

"An eight-month-old has no business being near that product," commented Cleveland in the Reuters Health article. "Trying to turn it in to a public risk is absurd."

The Daily Mail reported that the study is the first to look at the effect these toys have on humans. It describes five of the balls, including measurements of the balls at various intervals in a four-day period. After two hours, the balls were found to be double in size. The doctors noted that there have been past cases where birds have died from ingesting similar gel products. As such, these types of balls should be placed in a safe location away from animals.

“Other household products and toys on the market use a similar polymer-based water-absorbing technology, thus increasing the risk for accidental ingestion by young children. These rapidly expanding objects can cause significant morbidity, and timely diagnosis and treatment are prudent to improve patient outcomes,” wrote the authors in the report.