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Doctors Swallow Lego Heads So That Parents Won't Worry

When a child is discovering the world, they'll probably reach the stage where they start putting whatever they can find in their mouths. For nervous new parents, this exploration can make them see a choking hazard around every corner.

So when a child does end up swallowing something they're not supposed to eat, it's understandable for them to get concerned about what happens once it makes its way through their bodies.

And since pediatricians would hear more about these anxieties than anyone, it's no surprise that they'd want to get to the bottom of what happens when somebody swallows a small object.

What is surprising is how they went about it.

This holiday season, the child health website Don't Forget The Bubbles wanted to do something light-hearted, but still practical.

Reddit | Darzin

They're a serious publication, but a jokey journal article about how Peppa Pig influences expectations of child healthcare inspired them to run a more offbeat experiment.

They had a look at the non-food items that young children most commonly swallow and found out something interesting.

Reddit | koningoliver

Coins top the list of commonly-swallowed items, and the team at Don't Forget The Bubbles reportedly found a wealth of research to reflect that.

However, they found much less research exploring what happens when people swallow the second most common thing that children put in their mouth: Toy parts.

Parents get just as concerned when their kid swallows a toy part as they do when a coin goes down the hatch, so the matter was worth exploring.

Twitter | @TessaRDavis

The two most likely questions that a parent will have when this happens involve how it will affect their kid and how long the piece will be stuck in there.

A team of doctors set out to answer both questions and studying something as smooth, small and popular as a Lego head seemed like the perfect way to get that answer.

How would the doctors get their answer? Why, by swallowing the heads, of course!

YouTube | Damian Roland

In their article in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, the team said that they couldn't ask test subjects to do anything that they wouldn't do themselves.

After excluding those who ever had intestinal surgery, those who couldn't swallow foreign objects, and those who didn't want to search through their poop, they ended up with a volunteer pool of six doctors.

Yes, you read that right. Each volunteer would have to search their own poo for the Lego head.

Since they were measuring both the effect the head would have on the poop's consistency and how long it would take the head to appear, there was, unfortunately, no other way.

To determine what the Lego head actually does when it's swallowed, they came up with a test called the Stool Hardness And Transit score.

YouTube | Damian Roland

Which, yes, spells out something rude when you turn it into an acronym. Anyway, how this score worked was that each volunteer would keep a three-day diary of their bowel movements before they even touched the head.

According to the article, if they had frequent, loose movements, the score was higher. If they were firm and happen less often, the score was lower. The score would then be compared to what came up after the head was swallowed.

Once they compared scores, they would not only know what how the head affected the poop, but also how long the head took to appear.

YouTube | Damian Roland

Their final answer would come in the form of a Found And Retrieved Time score measured in days. And no, the fact that this is called a FART score wasn't lost on them either.

So now that we've got the gross details of this experiment out of the way, what damage did the Lego heads do?

YouTube | Damian Roland

Any parents who have fewer Lego heads than they can explain may be relieved to hear that of the five Lego heads retrieved (we'll get to that), none apparently had a significant difference in poop consistency.

As far as the doctors could tell, swallowing a Lego head had little to no impact on their, ahem, production.

As for the FART scores, most of the volunteers didn't have to wait long to get their Lego heads back.

YouTube | Damian Roland

Most of the volunteers retrieved the head within one to three bowel movements, with four of them finding the head within one-and-a-half days and one of them finding it in three days.

But wait, where did that leave the remaining doctor?

YouTube | Damian Roland

It turns out that they simply never found his, which meant they had the unfortunate luck of sifting through their poop for two weeks to make sure it was truly missing.

It's not impossible that it's somehow still in their digestive system, but it's more likely that they just couldn't find it. After all, it's a needle in a very unpleasant haystack.

As some of these doctors' peers are quick to point out, the article doesn't really pass muster as hard science.

Twitter | @EMManchester

The acronym that Professor Carley here is throwing around stands for evidence-based medicine, which he is correct to say that this article isn't. "PEM" likely stands for pediatric emergency medicine, by the way.

But of course, the point isn't to convince researchers to swallow everything they test. It's to have a little fun and help parents calm their nerves when little Billy swallows Emmet from The Lego Movie's head.

And as the doctors said, they searched through poo on this one so parents don't have to.

Reddit | Stever450

And just in case there even the tiniest hint of confusion, they wrote in the article that it's unreasonable to expect a parent to do any of that dirty work if even experienced doctors had trouble with it.

Oh, and nobody should try this at home, either.

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