Toy magnets and hidden dangers

If you have toy magnetic balls lying around at home, you might want to keep them away from your children
Toy magnets and hidden dangers

KOCHI: Children, especially those below the age of five, are constantly at risk of getting injured. There may be many external causes for this, paired with their inherent curiosity. Lately, a new villain was identified to be causing severe injuries in children — toy magnets! They are available online in different colours and are extremely dangerous and life-threatening if swallowed by children, say experts.

Recently, a two-year-old from Kochi underwent surgery at a private hospital here. The kid had swallowed toy magnets shaped like beads. According to Geetha Mammayil, a paediatric gastroenterologist, such cases have been on the rise of late, and most parents seem to be unaware of the risks these toys pose.

“Last month, we had to perform surgery on a child who swallowed these magnets. The child was continuously vomiting and complained of stomach pain. Later, an X-ray revealed that she had swallowed magnets that drilled holes in her intestines. Another case we had a week ago involved a one-and-a-half-year-old,” said Geetha, who is based in Kochi.

Experts point out cases from the US and the UK, where children died after swallowing such magnets. This had led to a ban on such products in these countries. The toy magnets — shiny magnetic balls that can be put together to form different shapes and forms — are appealing to babies and children.

“Most people are unaware of the harm they pose. The magnets, in most cases, are hard metal balls. Unlike fridge magnets, these are highly magnetised. Once they stick together, they are very difficult to separate. Since they are shiny, children are tempted to put them in their mouth, and at times, they accidentally swallow them. These magnets end up in various parts of the digestive tract, later sticking together inside, damaging tissues and burning holes. In such cases, surgery is the only option,” said Geetha.

In some cases, parents delay hospital visits under the assumption that since these magnets are not sharp, they may be ejected in stools. “If the child swallows more than two or three pieces, all of them may not necessarily come out. Those that remain, can damage the system. Therefore, the children need to be rushed to hospital,” said Alappuzha- based paediatrician A Abraham. “The child will require an emergency surgery depending on the severity of the injuries. The worst-case scenario would require numerous operations, bowel resection, and time in paediatric intensive care,” added Abraham.

Did you know?

  • Toy magnets are magnetic balls that appear as beads can be made into different shapes and forms. It is sold as part of home decor, office supplies, stress-relief accessories, desk sculptures and crafts
  • When swallowed, these magnets can stick together internally and through organs and tissues and can cut off blood supply causing the tissue to die
  • These magnets are 10 times stronger than traditional magnets. If these end up on either side of a piece of the digestive tract, it can interfere with blood supply
  • High strength magnets can rip the child’s gut if they swallow them causing life-threatening injuries

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The New Indian Express