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Pediatrics > Pediatric Blogs > Swallowing magnets pose serious danger to children

Swallowing magnets pose serious danger to children

Posted by: Atilla Devenyi, MD on 11/16/2012 1:31:37 PM

Kids swallowing things they shouldn’t is nothing new, but there’s one object that’s causing those of us in the medical community much concern—magnets.

The American Academy of Pediatrics links magnet ingestion to serious gastrointestinal injuries among young children and even adolescents, who unintentionally swallow them after using magnets as fake tongue piercings.

What is the danger?
A single small magnet, like any other foreign body, will most likely pass through the gastrointestinal tract without complications.

On the other hand, swallowing more than one magnet or a magnet and another metallic object poses a unique hazard. Magnets can actually attract each other through the lining of the many loops in the bowel. This could cause perforation, restriction of blood, and bowel obstruction.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission monitors the safety standards of children’s products and toys. Unfortunately, children can still get their hands on products designed for adults, such as stress-relief desk toys consisting of dozens of small magnet balls, or other products that include loose magnets.

Some retailers have voluntarily discontinued the sale of these products because of their inherent danger to children. CPSC is currently pursuing legal action against the manufacturer of Buckyballs and Buckycubes to halt their sale.


A case at Lancaster General Health

A 7-year-old was brought to the emergency room complaining of stomach pains. He admitted he had swallowed several magnets, which were compressing the tissue between the small intestine and the stomach.

We were able to retrieve all of the magnets successfully using endoscopy (inserting a thin flexible tube down the esophagus) and various retrieval tools. The patient did not suffer any complications, but if we had been unable to remove the magnets, exploratory surgery would have been necessary.


Parents should closely monitor any products in their home that contain magnets, and if they suspect their child may have ingested a magnet, seek immediate medical attention.


If you know of any other products or toys containing magnets that can be considered a danger to children, we would appreciate hearing about them. Please either leave a comment or share your story on our Facebook page.


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