Small smooth plastic objects, like beads normally pass through the digestive system unaltered and cause no harm, according to Women's and Children's Health Network. If the item passes through the esophagus, it's normally small enough to pass through the rest of the digestive system.
If the item causes breathing problems, emergency medical care is required. The American Family Physician says the doctor may attempt to remove the object or push it through to the stomach, depending on its size and location. Locating the object sometimes requires use of X-ray. Doctors sometimes perform a series of X-rays to ensure the object is moving through the system without causing harm.
While most objects cause no symptoms at all, eMedicineHealth indicates the texture of an item sometimes causes bleeding. Some swallowed items cause immediate choking or vomiting. If the item lodges in the throat, the individual sometimes experiences symptoms that include pain in the chest, pain when swallowing or drooling. If a child refuses to eat, has blood in the vomit or stool or suffers malnutrition and weight loss after swallowing plastic, medical care is advisable.
In young children, swallowing plastic is often a part of natural curiosity. In teens and adults, swallowing plastic is often an attention-seeking behavior, according to eMedicineHealth.