Mum warns of water beads harm

Muhammad Usman has now recovered (Supplied)

Tara Murray

Western suburbs mum Sana Awan is warning parents about the danger ‘water beads’ can cause after her son had to have one surgically removed after swallowing it.

Ms Awan was having a quiet night in when her eldest daughter said, “mum, Muhammad has something in his mouth”.

Ms Awan rushed to her seven-month-old son Muhammad Usman and discovered he had a “water bead” in his mouth – a tiny, round polymer ball commonly sold as a child’s sensory toy.

She tried to remove the bead with her finger but thought that Muhammad had swallowed it.

He was coughing and distressed and Ms Awan became worried.

Some brands of water bead can potentially expand up to 400 times their original size when they come into contact with water, presenting a choking hazard if ingested.

“The bead came from inside a squishy frog toy that burst,” Ms Awan said. “I googled water beads and they can be quite dangerous for kids, but a lot of people don’t know the dangers. They can be

dangerous for older kids too because kids might think they look like food and want to put them in their mouths.”

After her call to Nurse-On-Call was transferred to Victoria’s Virtual Emergency Department, Ms Awan and Muhammad were directed to go straight to Sunshine Hospital.

“I was very worried,” she said. “His tongue was blue and he was really uncomfortable. I knew we had to get help. We went to the hospital and the doctors and nurses were great.

Ms Awan took a water bead with her into the hospital and put it in a glass of water to help demonstrate how fast the bead was expanding and how large it would become.

Muhammad was kept under observation and no symptoms were observed, but his situation deteriorated when he began to have difficulty breathing.

A medical assessment and a chest imaging confirmed that the water bead had actually entered Muhammad’s lung, expanded and was causing a life-threatening blockage.

He was transferred to the Royal Children’s Hospital where the bead was surgically removed.

Sunshine Hospital paediatric emergency medicine director Associate Professor David Krieser said it was a very serious situation that quickly became a life-threatening medical


“We were able to get Muhammad the care he needed in time, and all of us here at Sunshine Hospital are so glad this story has had a happy ending.”

Water beads are widely available and marketed under different brand names, often as sensory toys.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Choice have issued safety warnings about water beads in recent years due to the choking hazard and the beads often being brightly coloured and

attractive to children.

Associate Professor Krieser warned parents to be very cautious with water beads, especially in a household with children under five years of age.

Symptoms to be aware of are choking, breathing difficulty, vomiting or abdominal pain.

If you think your child might have swallowed or inhaled a water bead, attend your local emergency department for assessment or if they are having trouble breathing triple-0.

Ms Awan is just grateful her son is safe.

“All I want to say is be careful with these toys, they can be very dangerous if little ones inhale them. We don’t want any family to go through what we went through.”