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Are Orbeez Toxic and What Happens if you Swallow One?

what if you swallow orbeez

Orbeez have been on the market for several years now and even won the Best in Play award by Parenting Magazine in 2012. What makes them so popular is the versatile usage of these water beads. They are tiny pellets, which when put in warm or hot water expand to become squishy balls that can be used to play with, decorate the house or keep your flowers wet. What makes Orbeez so fascinating is the fact that they grow in water, bounce and can transmit light and color, which makes them particularly attractive for children.

One of the features of Orbeez is that they look like candy because of their shape and bright colors. This attractive look is one of the reasons kids to be tempted to try and see if they are as tasty as they look like. Not to mention that smaller kids will put almost anything into their mouth as a form of getting to know what it is and hence comes the Choking hazard label that is displayed on all toys containing small parts. 

As a parent, it is normal to worry if Orbeez can be dangerous for your kid and what you need to do if your kid has swallowed one or more Orbeez or at least you suspect so. Here is a comprehensive guide that provides extensive information about Orbeez and other water balls and can help you be more prepared in the event of an unpleasant accident.

What are Orbeez and are they toxic?

Even though Orbeez are quite popular and can be found in almost every home now, quite a few of us have asked themselves the questions – What are Orbeez? The basic knowledge we have is that these are small pellets that do expand in size when put in water. Now, however, more people demand to know why this happens and what Orbeez are made of in order to be sure that they are completely safe prior to introducing them to their children.

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Orbeez are polymer beads that grow in size when put in warm or hot water, to be more precise. Orbeez contain a co-polymer of sodium acrylic acid that consists of acrylic acid, sodium hydroxide and water and their beautiful nuances are the result of color pigmentation. 

You should not be scared by the sound of Orbeez components as they are actually completely non-toxic and they pose no poisoning danger both for kids and pets. 

How do Orbeez expand in size?

In order to understand if Orbeez are dangerous if swallowed, you need to know how they expand in size when in water. While it is correct that they grow significantly from their original size, the maximum that an Orbeez bead can reach is 14 mm in diameter when put in warm or hot water. Cold water does not have the same growing effect on them. If the beads are swallowed, it is expected that they will grow in size as a result of the water that we have in our bodies. The manufacturers, however, point out that an Orbeez bead will grow only up to 7 mm in the intestines, which means it can safely pass through the digestive tract. 

It is important to know that Orbeez do not break down when swallowed and they are not absorbed by the body. Even if you swallow a few beads they will not stick together, which makes their evacuation from your body much easier. Still, it is recommended to seek medical help in case of swallowing Orbeez, especially by young children. See below what you shall do in such a case. 

What to do in case you swallow Orbeez?

Swallowing Orbeez beads can happen as a result of unintentional activities but most often this can be the reaction of a curious kid exploring life and learning through experience. As a whole, Orbeez beads are not dangerous if swallowed as they will pass through the digestive tract, however with smaller kids you need to be extra cautious as they can pose danger. As Orbeez do not break down they will be naturally eliminated through the digestive process. 

An Orbeez bead in your intestines is not expected to grow more than 7 mm in diameter, however, if swallowed already expanded it may cause choking or suffocation especially with smaller kids. It can be even more dangerous if the kid has swallowed more than one bead. In such cases, it is advisable to seek medical help. Note that Orbeez are not radiopaque, which means they won’t show in an X-ray. 

When seeking medical help, it is advisable to bring some Orbeez with you in order to show the medical staff what exactly may be blocking your kid’s intestines. As there are various water beads on the market, this information may be of significant importance as to how the doctors will proceed further. 


Because of their size and colors, kids may mistake Orbeez beads for candy and try to eat them. Therefore, it is recommended not to leave your kids play with them unsupervised, especially at a younger age. You should also be extra careful if you use Orbeez as decoration around the house – in jars or vases. They do make great accessories but make sure that you have placed them out of the reach of small children. 

Signs to look for if you suspect your child has swallowed Orbeez 

There are certain signs that may suggest that your kid has swallowed an Orbeez bead or any other small toy or part of a toy, that you should note. In case your kid shows any of the symptoms below, you need to seek medical advice as soon as possible as they are an indicator that something is wrong:

  • Your kid is refusing to eat
  • Your kid is drooling (more than normal) 
  • Your kid is vomiting
  • Your kid is wheezing
  • Your kid complaints that something is stuck in their throat or chest
  • Your kid complaints of abdominal pain
  • Your kid has constipation
  • You can notice abdominal swelling and soreness

Do not underestimate such signs and take immediate action to prevent any possible complications. 

Are Orbeez dangerous if stuck in the nose or in the ear?

Like any other small object, Orbeez beads may end up stuck in your kid’s nose or ears. Generally, in such cases, you need to contact a specialist – otolaryngologist, who can safely remove them. Do not attempt to do it yourself as you can cause the bead sticking even further down the cavity.

If an Orbeez bead is stuck in the nose, the physician will use the usual otolaryngologist techniques to remove the foreign object. You can bring some Orbeez beads with you so that the physician knows what they are dealing with. Keep in mind that Orbeez will not show in an X-ray. 

Read our article about 11 cool ways to have fun with Orbeez!

If an Orbeez bead is stuck in the ear there are some techniques that can be applied for its easier removal. Note, that this should be performed by a physician and not at home. Water helps Orbeez grow in size, while alcohol reduces their size by 25%. Therefore, four drops of alcohol can be dropped on a cotton ball, which placed in the ear canal for about 15 minutes will help the bead reduce its size. Note that this technique can be applied only when there is no hole or perforated eardrum. Otherwise, it may pose danger to the health. Keep in mind that ear vacuum is not recommended for taking Orbeez out of the ear and saline solution should be avoided as well. 

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The general advice in case you or your child ends up with an Orbeez bead stuck in the nose or ear is to seek expert otolaryngologic help. You should not expect any other complications as a result of the fact that it is a water bead, the inconvenience it causes will be the same as any other small particle stuck in your nose or ear. 

Difference between Orbeez and other water beads

There are different types of water-absorbing gel beads on the market that are also sold as popular entertainment for kids. You can come across them under different names that include water orbs, jelly beads, water beads, hydro orbs, gel beads, polymer beads. Their common feature is that they expand dramatically when put in water and can grow up to 200 times in size. The beads come in bright colors that are quite attractive and therefore often used as decoration. The fact that they can be dried out and reused also helps for their popularity.

There are different brands that offer such water-expanding gel beads and it makes a difference, which one you will choose, especially if you intend to use them as toys for your kids. 


Note that Orbeez expand only to 14 mm, which makes them much safer in case they are swallowed even by smaller kids. Some other water beads can grow up to 57 mm in diameter when in water, which poses a great danger both for humans and pets if inhaled or swallowed. It is recommended to opt for larger water-beads only if your intention is to use them as flower holders for example and you are sure that they will be out of the reach of children.

Another important features that makes Orbeez suitable for kids is that they are non-toxic, do not pose any danger of poisoning and will not be absorbed by the body even if inhaled or swallowed. Still, if you or your kid swallow more than a dozen beads, you need to seek immediate medical assistance to avoid any complications for your health. 

What is the meaning of different warning labels on Orbeez packages? 

If you buy a package of Orbeez, you will note that it comes with specific warnings for its usage. As the beads are small and can be easily swallowed by babies and smaller kids there is a label warning that there is Choking Hazard because of the small parts it contains and is not suitable for kids under the age of 3. 

However, there is a clear note that the recommended age for this product is 5+, which means that it is suitable for children who are at least 5 years old to play with it. This is the recommendation for all toys that contain Orbeez beads. 

The two labels may seem contradictory at first, however they actually complement each other. The first one concerns safety and choking hazard label appears on all products containing small parts that can be swallowed or inhaled regardless of the age grade they are suitable for. The age grade defines for which group the product is suitable depending on its play pattern. 

As a whole, parents can rest assured that Orbeez are a funny and safe toy for their children as long as they use them with caution and follow the safety advice on the packaging. 

Here are the links to our orbeez and guns that you can use with them:

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20 Responses

  1. yall are stupid. It says non-toxic. You’re all flailing your arms with kids “bleeding everywhere”, doing to the hospital, and you people cant even remember the article saying it’s non-toxic. One guy even wrote “its toxic to humans but not pets”. WTF LOL? What is this room temperature IQ? You people lack the qualifications to exercise free will.
    … Anyway, I eat these things sometimes for fun, and i feed them to my chickens. Its just polyvinyl alcohol and sodium hydroxide. Eating these is better than boozing or taking most prescription drugs.

  2. My child stuck an orbeez bead up the nose at age 4. He panicked and tried to shoot it out of his nose – blood was everywhere and the head had broken apart. We didn’t know they don’t show up on x-Ray. ER didn’t find any remnants; I’ve always wondered if any of it remained in him. They absolutely break apart and it was real Orbeez brand.

    1. Recently my daughter also ate . But she indicate she only ate one . I’m so worried will anything happen ?

  3. I am searching this with very tension mind because my 2 year baby swallow around 20 water gel bullets for his toy gun.tonorrow morning I should go to pediatrician pray all for my little star

    1. Naseema, I would absolutely take him to the doctor…at 2 years old and 20 water beads, he could 100% end up with an impacted colon or an intestinal blockage. They will usually pass themselves with no problems, but off brand water beads can use other ingredients which may be toxic or could cause other issues for your child. If you know the brand of the beads that your kiddo swallowed, try to look up an ingredient list for them. Maybe they have some information on their website about what to do if they are swallowed. 20 seems like a large amount. I hope he’s OK and I’ll pray for him ????????

      1. What happened if a 3years old eat at least one (1) water beads.? I am just so worried about my daughter when she eat one (1) water beads, please help me clear my mind that it’s ok.

      1. I am 17 years old and I have a water bead stuck in my right nasal passage. As I went to St. Elizabeths ER last night they could not remove it. The orbeez is growing off of my mucus, which is causing it to just stay lodged. I don’t know what to do know as I am back home. It’s been 11 hours since the doctors and it’s still in my nose.

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