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Parents beware: gruesome injuries caused by toy

Any parent or pediatrician can agree – children will try to swallow almost everything. Some say, there is nothing quicker on Earth than a child’s hand reaching for something they shouldn’t have. When kids are young, they use their mouths to explore the world. But, when they are playing with certain toys, it can be extremely dangerous.

High-powered magnets and lithium button batteries are examples of two common household objects that can cause devastating consequences if swallowed by kids. Unfortunately, thousands of children are treated every year in emergency departments after swallowing these objects.

What toys are dangerous?

High-powered magnet sets consist of tiny and very powerful magnet balls or cubes, often marketed as desk or office toys with 100 or more magnets to a set. These magnets can be up to 30 times stronger than refrigerator magnets. Buyers may be unaware these magnets do not meet the same safety standards as children’s toys and can pose significant health risks.

Button batteries, or lithium coin batteries, are also very dangerous if swallowed. Button batteries are small, round, metallic and found in toys and electronics like remote controls, key fobs and cameras.

What is the harm?

Magnets - If two or more magnets are swallowed, the magnets can be drawn together and make holes in the intestines, causing blockages or severe infection. Children may have vague symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting and fever. Many children require emergency surgery to remove the magnets.

Batteries - If swallowed, these batteries can get stuck in the throat or swallowing tube and cause serious burns and bleeding through the esophagus, stomach and other internal organs. Children who swallow these batteries may drool, cough, vomit or complain of throat pain. If not identified quickly, children could die from these injuries.

How to prevent injury

High-powered magnets are inherently dangerous products for all children. They are usually shiny and attractive and small enough for curious toddlers to put in their mouths. Teens have been known to use them to mimic mouth piercings and accidentally swallow them. Due to the small size and large number of magnets in the sets, it can be nearly impossible to tell if magnets are missing and extremely difficult to keep out of reach of children. For these reasons, the best prevention you can take is to remove all high-powered magnet sets from the home.

  • Remove all rare-earth magnets or similar toys from your home.
  • If unable to remove, then keep them locked up in a secure container and out of reach.
  • Watch children closely.
  • Secure all household objects that contain button batteries.

If you are concerned a child has swallowed a magnet or a button battery, contact your pediatrician or go to the nearest emergency department immediately.

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Pediatrics

Pediatric Fellow