High-Powered Magnets & Children – An Attractive Combination That Can Lead to Severe Injury

A child may initially have little to no symptoms after ingesting more than one high-powered magnet, but complications can escalate rapidly if internal injuries develop. The magnets can connect to each other and pinch the intestinal wall, which can cut off blood supply to that area. The resulting injury can cause blockages, tissue damage, severe infection and even death. Surgery is often required to repair the damage and remove the magnets. 

2022 study published in Pediatrics reviewed magnet exposure cases from 25 children’s hospitals and found that 56% of children who ingested high-powered magnets were hospitalized, 46% had endoscopy or surgery, and almost 10% had a life-threatening internal injury.

What to do if you suspect a child has ingested high-powered magnets:

If you suspect that your child has swallowed a high-powered magnet, seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms of magnet ingestion include abdominal pain, vomiting, and difficulty passing stool or gas; however, these symptoms will take time to develop.

What can be done for a child who has swallowed high-powered magnets?

Treatment for swallowing high-powered magnets will differ based on the size, shape and the number of magnets swallowed. A single magnet will usually pass through the digestive system without causing any harm. However, if your child has swallowed—or may have swallowed—more than one magnet, serious complications can occur and medical evaluation is needed.

How to prevent a small toy from turning into a huge problem:

If you have high-powered magnet sets in your home, here are some injury prevention tips to help keep small children safe:

  1. Avoid magnetic toys and products for children and individuals with developmental delays or for anyone who may be at risk of swallowing foreign objects like magnets. 
  2. Keep any adult magnetic desk toys out of the reach of children. 
  3. Regularly check your child’s toys for loose or broken magnets and discard any you find.
  4. Educate older siblings: Make sure older siblings understand the risks associated with magnets and that they should not play with them outside of their intended use.
  5. Store magnets safely: Keep magnets out of reach of children and store them in a secure location.
  6. Supervise playtime: Keep a close eye on your child during playtime and make sure they don’t have access to small magnets during the play period.