Magnets

"The damage they did is absolutely unreal. They burned holes in the intestines. Whenever they opened him up some of his intestines already leaked out." Mother of a three-year-old boy

Super strong magnets can cause serious injury

Shockingly, super strong magnets can be 10 times stronger than ordinary magnets and can burn through a child’s gut if they swallow them.

The injuries they cause can be very serious and even life-threatening.

The magnets are attracted to each other inside the body and stick together, cutting off the blood supply and effectively burning holes in the child’s intestines.

If a child swallows magnets, they will need immediate assessment in hospital and may need emergency surgery to remove them.

If the injuries are severe, the child may need several operations and time in intensive care.

Doctors are worried about growing numbers of cases. In one group of hospitals, the number of children treated after swallowing magnets has increased by five times in the last four years.

Where are they found?

Younger children have swallowed:

  • magnetic beads from jewellery-making kits

  • magnetic balls from building kits

  • magnets from building block toys and magnetic dartboards

  • fridge magnets

In one incident, an 18-month-old child swallowed 23 magnets after getting hold of a toy belonging to an older child in the family.

Doctors are also treating tweens and teens who have swallowed magnetic fake tongue piercings, after a trend in TikTok videos showing these.

Five tips to keep children safe from dangerous magnets

  • Products on online marketplaces pose particular risks, as they may not follow UK safety standards on safe levels of magnetic strength.

  • Try to buy toys or gifts from a reputable retailer or a brand name you know, so you are sure they meet UK safety standards.

  • Look for warnings on packaging and online marketplaces, and don’t give products with strong magnets to young children.

  • Keep older children’s magnets away from small children and explain to older children why they need to keep them away from little sisters or brothers.

  • Talk to tweens and teens about the dangers of putting magnets in or near their mouths or swallowing them.

    Signs your child may have swallowed magnets

    It may not be obvious that your child has swallowed these tiny magnets. While older children can tell you what they’ve done, young children may not be able to.

    Signs to look out for include stomach pain, nausea or vomiting. They may not be able to keep down fluids. You may suspect a stomach bug or appendicitis.

    Act quickly if you’re worried

    If you think your child may have swallowed magnets, take them straight to A&E or phone 999 for an ambulance.

    Don’t delay, trust your instincts.


    More information

    Learn why top doctors are so worried, find out how accidents happen, study official safety alerts and spread the word with our flyer plus social media assets and a poster and leaflet from the Office for Product Safety and Standards.

    British Association of Paediatric Surgeons Logo