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12/1/22 blog post

the danger of water beads

why this potentially hazardous toy shouldn't make you children's wishlist

Have you seen recent news stories about the dangers of water beads? This time of year, most kids are excitedly putting together their Christmas wish lists, but parents should check those lists twice and make sure that the toys are safe for children to play with.  

“Water beads are colorful and fun.  They are used in sensory play in both home and daycare/school settings and are marketed as non-toxic.  However, water beads can be very hazardous, especially to small children, if swallowed,” said Amy Schopperth a trauma program manager.   

what are water beads?  

Water beads are made of superabsorbent polymers. While they may start very small, when exposed to fluids such as water, they can absorb and retain hundreds of times their weight in water allowing them to expand to the size of a baseball.  

Over the years, water beads have been growing rapidly in popularity. In addition to being using in sensory play for kids, water beads are also very popular to use in decorating. You may have seen them used as vase fillers to keep flowers and plants fresh and hydrated. 

why are they hazardous? 

While they are marketed as non-toxic, that does not mean they aren’t hazardous! Because the water beads can expand to such a large size, they can cause a very serious and possibly life-threatening obstruction in the intestines. This most often leads to surgery and an admission to the hospital. At least one death has occurred after a water bead was ingested by a child. 

This tragedy has already happened to a Maine mother. Folichia Mitchell says her 9-month-old baby was sent to the Pediatric ICU after swallowing a water bead and she’s encouraging more parents to be cautious about this toy.   

"Due to their colorful, candy-like appearance, water beads can be mistaken for candy and easily ingested,” said Schopperth. They are also small enough size that kids have even placed them in their ears or nose. Even during supervised play, you may miss it happening in a blink of an eye. If you suspect that a water bead has been swallowed or placed in their ears or nose, it’s important to get your child to the emergency department right away. 

keep kids safe from pretty poisons throughout the home 

And just like some medications that can look like candy to kids, it’s important to keep water beads and other similar items away from children. Read more about “pretty poisons” here.   

It's important to also remember that the Poison Helpline is 1-800-222-1222. Store this number in your phone or in an easily accessible place for emergencies. While our hope is that you will never need to use it, it is always better to be safe and stay prepared with access to their free, 24/7 service in case of an emergency.