Warning to parents over magnet danger to children

June 21, 2012

Doctors are asking parents to take extra care that their children do not swallow small magnets from toys, after two children required surgical intervention following ingestion of such small magnets. In a letter to the Lancet, Dr. Anil Thomas George and Dr Sandeep Motiwale of Queen's Medical Centre, part of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, UK, report two separate incidents in the last 18 months of children needing surgical intervention to remove swallowed magnets.

The first case involved an 18-month-old child who had swallowed 10 small magnetic spheres and the second involved an eight-year-old who had swallowed two 2-cm long magnetic strips. In both cases, the magnets were from small children's toys. Both of the children had mild and on further examination and investigation were found to have the magnets lodged in their digestive systems.

Single small objects occasionally swallowed by young children can usually pass through their without causing any illness or internal damage. However, when several magnetic elements are ingested this becomes a totally different scenario. The multiple magnets can become attracted to each other inside the body, trapping internal between them and causing to develop. A fistula is a condition whereby an abnormal connection is formed between soft tissues inside the body (in these cases, between different segments of bowel), and if left untreated, may lead to serious illness. Notably, the children who swallowed magnets would initially have felt no pain or discomfort, making it difficult for to know when their children might be at risk.

According to Dr George, "We are particularly concerned about the widespread availability of cheap magnetic toys where the magnetic parts could become easily detached. Parents should be warned of the risk of magnet ingestion, particularly in small children. We believe that improvement in public awareness about this risk will be key in preventing such incidents".

Similar concerns have already been raised the US and Canada in recent years, leading to numerous public alerts and product recalls, but to date there have been no such national alerts in the UK. As magnetic toys become increasingly popular and cheaper, the Lancet correspondents warn that the problem of accidental ingestion of magnetic elements could be set to become more common.

"While we understand that it may be impossible to prevent small children from occasionally swallowing objects, we would highlight to parents the potential harm that could arise from multiple magnet ingestion. We would advise parents to be more vigilant and take extra care when giving their toys that may contain magnets small enough to swallow. We would also welcome an increased awareness of this problem among toy manufacturers, who have a responsibility to alert parents to the presence of magnets in their products."*

Explore further: Small batteries, other shiny objects pose risks to children

Related Stories

Small batteries, other shiny objects pose risks to children

June 1, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Coins, magnets and small batteries pose serious dangers to children when accidentally swallowed, the American College of Emergency Physicians warns.

Swallowing 'button batteries' can lead to serious injuries or death

September 30, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Small, coin-sized batteries can cause serious health problems and can even lead to death if swallowed by children, and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt wants to educate parents ...

Recommended for you

Breathing dirty air may harm kidneys, study finds

September 21, 2017
Outdoor air pollution has long been linked to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A new study now adds kidney disease to the list, according to ...

Excess dietary manganese promotes staph heart infection

September 21, 2017
Too much dietary manganese—an essential trace mineral found in leafy green vegetables, fruits and nuts—promotes infection of the heart by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus ("staph").

Being active saves lives whether a gym workout, walking to work or washing the floor

September 21, 2017
Physical activity of any kind can prevent heart disease and death, says a large international study involving more than 130,000 people from 17 countries published this week in The Lancet.

Frequent blood donations safe for some, but not all

September 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—Some people may safely donate blood as often as every eight weeks—but that may not be a healthy choice for all, a new study suggests.

Higher manganese levels in children correlate with lower IQ scores, study finds

September 21, 2017
A study led by environmental health researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine finds that children in East Liverpool, Ohio with higher levels of Manganese (Mn) had lower IQ scores. The research appears ...

One e-cigarette with nicotine leads to adrenaline changes in nonsmokers' hearts

September 20, 2017
A new UCLA study found that healthy nonsmokers experienced increased adrenaline levels in their heart after one electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) with nicotine but there were no increased adrenaline levels when the study ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.