High-Powered Magnets + Swallowing by Kids = Deadly

A clump of little round magnets can relieve stress. They are addictive to play with. Just ask anyone who has held them. Folks, they are for adults only – really!

High-powered magnets pose a serious risk to children. These magnets are so powerful that tweens and teens are using them to create jewelry, such as nose and tongue piercings or studs. So, when you manage to wrangle a conversation out of your teens, make sure they know what their bodies look like with magnets trapped inside.

Magnets inside the body

Magnets inside the body


Better yet, show them this video:

To watch this video in Adobe Flash format, you may need to download the Adobe Flash player. You can also watch the video on YouTube.

(Watch on YouTube.)

CPSC has received 22 reports of magnet incidents involving children between the ages of 18 months and 15 years old since June 2009. In 11 incidents, the magnets had to be removed by surgery. When a magnet has to be removed surgically, it also can require repairing the child’s damaged stomach and intestines.

Reports of incidents have increased since 2009. CPSC has reports of a single incident in 2009, seven in 2010 and 14 through October 2011.

Here’s just one example of an incident:

A four-year-old boy from Hawaii swallowed magnets while vacationing in Boston. The magnets were bought for him for the travel. The boy’s mom said the toy kept him quietly occupied during their long trip. When asked why he put the small magnets in his mouth, the boy replied that the magnets resembled the small chocolate balls on his mom’s cake. He wanted to see if they tasted the same. The boy became ill during the last few days of the family’s vacation. His parents thought he had the flu. He became violently ill on the flight home. Upon arrival in Hawaii, an ambulance was standing by to rush him to the hospital. The three magnets perforated his intestines and had to be surgically removed.

There have been many more news reports online, including seven reportedly treated in a San Diego hospital between January and June (Source: San Diego Momfia) (Note: CPSC does not investigate every media report we hear about.)

Doctors in La Jolla, Calif., were so concerned about children swallowing magnets that they held a news conference earlier this year to warn of the dangers after reportedly doing surgery on a 12-year old to remove eight magnets. (Source: La Jolla Patch) And in Denver, an 8-year-old reportedly swallowed 20 magnets and ended up with 5 to 6 holes in his intestines and one in his stomach, according to Fox 31-TV. [Blog Update: KDVR removed this story from their website after this blog was published.]

Here’s the message to your tweens and teens: These magnets aren’t for you to play with or use in your mouth as jewelry!

Tiny, rare-earth magnets look like this:

High-powered magnets

They are intended to be desk toys and stress relievers for adults, who can use them to create patterns and build shapes. The products are often sold in sets of 200 or more and are labeled for ages 14 and older. It is extremely difficult for a parent to know if a magnet is missing from a set.

They are not intended to be used to mimic teenage body piercings.

Here’s what you can do to avoid a magnet swallowing injury:

  • Keep small magnets and small pieces containing magnets away from young children who might swallow them.
  • Look out for loose magnet pieces – regularly inspect toys and children’s play areas for missing or dislodged magnets.

If you suspect that magnets have been swallowed:

  • Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Look for abdominal symptoms such as abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Note that in X-rays, multiple magnetic pieces may appear as a single object.
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