Fact Check

Did a Texas Girl Need Surgery After Choking on Part of a Fidget Spinner?

A woman wrote a harrowing story on Facebook about her daughter's needing surgery after swallowing a piece of the popular toy.

Published May 18, 2017

Updated May 18, 2017
Flickr/darrenpye (Flickr/darrenpye)
A Texas girl required surgery after she swallowed part of a fidget spinner while cleaning it.

On 15 May, Facebook user Kelly Rose Joniec posted an account of her daughter's hospitalization two days earlier, after accidentally swallowing part of a fidget spinner (an enormously popular children's toy):

We had a pretty eventful Saturday.

On the way home from a fun swim meet, I heard Britton make an odd retching noise in the back seat as I was driving. Looking back in the mirror, I saw her face turning red and drool pouring from her mouth – she could utter noises but looked panicked so I immediately pulled over. She pointed to her throat saying she'd swallowed something, so I attempted Heimlich but there was no resistance. She said she'd put part of her fidget spinner in her mouth to clean it and somehow swallowed it.

Frantic, I went straight to urgent care where they checked her for choking. They couldn't discern where the foreign object was located – along the airway or the esophagus. From there we got the red-light treatment via ambulance ? to Texas Children's Hospital. X-ray showed the spinner bushing lodged in her esophagus. The GI doctor was fascinated...he'd only just learned of fidget spinners that morning when he was at the mall with his son, so it was a surprise to be faced with one in a case a few hours later. He's also an advocate for related child safety in toys, so he took a special interest in the case.

After multiple, very stressful attempts to place an IV, Britton was taken to surgery to endoscopically locate and remove the object. Fortunately we had a positive outcome, but it was pretty scary there for a while...not only because of the initial ingestion, but then the concern about the composition and structure of the object, and finally, the risk with general anesthesia.

From this I wish to offer some word of caution to parents. Fidget spinners are the current craze so they are widely distributed. Kids of all ages may be getting them, but not all spinners come with age-appropriate warnings. The bushings pop out easily, so if you have young kids (under 8 yr old) keep in mind that these present a potential choking hazard.

[Sidenote: I certainly wasn't looking for an excuse to tour the brand new Texas Children's Hospital The Woodlands but this was a pretty effective way. Staff was great and the facility is very nice...but a little quiet on Saturday afternoons.]

A spokesperson for the Texas Children's Hospital confirmed to us that the basic story is true, and that the image of an x-ray showing the object lodged in the girl's esophagus is authentic.

Kelly Rose Joniec's daughter Britton was indeed taken to the Texas Children's Hospital at The Woodlands, near Houston, on Saturday 13 May, and did indeed successfully undergo surgery to remove part of a fidget spinner from her esophagus.

However, it's important to note that this incident was not the result of a property or mechanism intrinsic to the fidget spinner itself. Based on Kelly Rose Joniec's account, it appears that her daughter Britton separated out a part of the toy, and accidentally swallowed it after putting it in her mouth to clean it.

The incident does not appear to have happened while the girl was playing with the fidget spinner.  Patty Davis, a spokesperson for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, told us that parents should be aware that choking is a hazard with any small toy:

We know these toys are very new and gaining in popularity, and we would encourage parents to think about how their child interacts with toys. Do they mouth items? If that's the case, then this may not be a toy for them.

Keep any toy with small parts away from young children. They can be a choking hazard.


This article was updated to augment the comments of CPSC spokesperson Patty Davis.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.