Beads that expand in water have potentially fatal consequences if they are swallowed, an Adelaide doctor has warned.
A two-year-old girl was recently treated at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital after swallowing the beads, which were bought from a country market.
Called Water Beads, or Water Balz, the polymer balls can expand up to 400 times their size when they come into contact with water.
David Moore said only four cases of children eating the beads had been documented internationally but believed many more cases went unreported.
“There has been one report of a fatality, this was in Pakistan, where a six-month-old child swallowed one of these beads, one that was used for floral arrangements,” Dr Moore said.
“It was slightly bigger but they can expand up to the size of a golf ball.”
SA Health Minister Jack Snelling said the beads were mostly used as decorative items inside vases and centrepieces but they had recently been marketed as “sensory” learning toys for children.
“The water beads are brightly coloured and can look like lollies, making them particularly tempting for young children, who naturally place items in the mouth during early stages of development,” he said.
Dr Moore said balls that are swallowed could lead to intestinal obstruction, vomiting, severe discomfort and dehydration.
“Fortunately the child involved in this incident did not suffer any long term effects but the situation could have been far worse,” he said.