Kids Swallowing Magnets Poses Big Problem, Experts Warns

By Amir Khan on June 22, 2012 9:37 AM EDT

Magnets
More and more kids are accidentally swallowing magnets, and parents need to be aware of the risk, U.K. researchers warned on Thursday. (Photo: Creative Commons)

More and more kids are accidentally swallowing magnets, and parents need to be aware of the risk,  U.K. researchers warned on Thursday.

Small objects can usually pass through a child's digestive system without issue. However, when multiple magnets are ingested, the magnets can get stuck together in the body and trap tissue between them. If this occurs in the intestines, it could lead to a fistula, an abnormal connection of bowel tissue, that requires surgery to remove.

Many children who swallow magnets do not have any pain or discomfort for several days, researchers said, so it's difficult to diagnose the problem once the pain sets in, researchers said.

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"We are particularly concerned about the widespread availability of cheap magnetic toys, where the magnetic parts could become easily detached," Dr. Anil Thomas George, study author and researcher at the Queen's Medical Center in Nottingham, told LiveScience. "Parents should be warned of the risk of magnet ingestion, particularly in small children."

Researchers reported two cases in their study, both of whom required surgery. In one case, an 18-month old child have abdominal pain for five days before the hospital found that she swallowed 10 small magnets. In the second case, an 8-year-old child presented with symptoms of appendicitis before doctors found that he swallowed two inch-long magnetic strips.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that high-powered ball magnets, found in stress-relief desk toys rather than children's toys, can come loose and pose significant risk. If swallowed, these high-powered magnets can cause holes in the stomach and intestines, intestinal blockage and blood poisoning.

The CPSC recommends keeping small magnets away from children and regularly inspecting toys to ensure that none have come loose or are missing. If you suspect your child has swallowed a magnet, bring them to the hospital immediately. 

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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