"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

High-strength magnets can rip through a child’s gut if they swallow them, causing life-threatening injuries.

Signs that your child might have swallowed a magnet include stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.

The following case studies describing how children have been injured by strong magnets are all based on true stories.

You might find them upsetting, but they’ll help you understand how accidents can happen and keep your child safe.

If you think your child has swallowed magnets, it’s best to take them straight to A&E or call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Twins need emergency surgery after swallowing 27 magnets

An 18-month-old boy starts being sick and can’t hold down fluids, so his mum takes him to hospital.

Doctors suspect gastroenteritis but an x-ray of the boy’s abdomen shows 23 magnets forming a loop in his intestines, causing a bowel twist that can be fatal. He needs emergency surgery to remove them.

As a precaution, doctors check over his twin brother. They discover he’s swallowed four magnets and also needs surgery.

The colourful magnetic balls belong to the twins’ older siblings, but the younger boys somehow got hold of them.

Their mum said: “I am absolutely devastated that this happened to my boys. The outcome could have been a lot worse if left untreated.
“My advice to any other parent is simple - do not buy these magnets for your children as accidents can happen no matter what the age group.”

Magnets cause boy’s intestines to leak out

A three-year-old boy is playing with magnetic ball toys which were bought online for an older boy in the family.

The magnets look like colourful sweets, so he puts them in his mouth and swallows them.

He becomes ill and is taken to hospital where he has 29 magnetic balls and part of his intestine removed and 14 holes patched up.

The boy is lucky not to be left with permanent damage to his insides.

His mum said: “The damage the magnets did is absolutely unreal. They burned holes in his intestines. When they opened him up some of his intestines had already leaked out.
“I was beating myself up something crazy - I still feel guilt. My message is please stay away from magnets - no matter how clever you think your children are, accidents can happen.”

Boy copies TikTok ‘tongue piercing’ craze

An 11-year-old boy is feeling unwell and is rushed to hospital with a suspected burst appendix.

Surgeons perform keyhole surgery and confirm the boy has peritonitis, but his appendix is fine. They investigate further and find internal damage to his bowel.

As they probe a tiny magnet attaches itself to their surgical equipment - they’ve found the cause of the problem.

The boy has three magnetic balls removed, and a further two are discovered in a second, six-hour operation.

It’s believed the boy was following a TikTok craze where young people pretend to have their tongue pierced using super-strong magnets.

His grandmother said: “We wouldn’t ever have expected this. He’s gone from being a happy, healthy 11-year-old to being hooked up on wires and drips. His mum hasn’t left his side.” 

Magnetic bracelet beads erode inside little girl’s body

A three-year-old girl has been vomiting for 48 hours. Her mum takes her to hospital where she has scans and x-rays.

Doctors decide to operate and eight magnets are found lodged in her intestines.

The magnets have torn open her insides. Surgeons also discover shards of eroded metal, and she has three inches of her intestines removed.

Her mum said: “Those hours waiting were the absolute worst feeling I’ve ever experienced. Knowing my baby girl was in an operating room with her insides being taken out, her little body being put through so much trauma.
“We’re not sure when, where or why she decided it would be a good idea to eat these magnetic balls, but in her defence they were bright, rainbow-coloured balls like candy.
“Magnets are a huge danger. We could have lost our little girl over these ‘toys’ marketed for children.”

The girl’s friend had given her a bracelet made of tiny magnet balls the previous year.

Fourteen magnetic balls stick together inside girl’s bowel

A little girl’s mum thinks she’s averted disaster when she catches her daughter with small magnetic balls in her mouth and takes them away from her.

But a few days later, the two-year-old girl starts crying in pain and points to her stomach.

Her parents realise she might have swallowed some of the magnets and take her to hospital.

An x-ray reveals 14 magnetic balls stuck inside the little girl’s bowel. She has surgery to remove them.

The magnets had been given to an older child in the family who liked using them to make bracelets and rings.

The girl’s dad said: “I never imagined something like this would happen. My message to all parents would be please do not buy these magnets and if you have them, throw them away. I wouldn’t want any family to experience what we have been through.”

Thirty-two magnets make holes in girl’s bowel

A girl picks up a magnet which was bought online as a Christmas present for an older child in the household.

She puts it in her mouth and swallows it, and a while later she does the same thing again.

She becomes ill and her mum takes her to hospital where she has a major operation to stitch up three holes in her bowel. The magnetic balls had joined together and perforated the tissue.

The girl’s mum said: “She’d swallowed them at different times, but I had no idea how serious this was until I saw what looked like tiny bracelets inside her on the x-ray.
“It took a long time for her to recover. She still struggles to go to the toilet and her doctor suspects it’s because of scar tissue, which she may need further surgery to remove.”

Toddler eats magnets she thought were sweets

A two-year-old girl spots the magnets her older brother has been playing with.

She grabs some of the ball bearing-style magnets and puts them in her mouth.

The little girl starts to feel sick and her mum thinks she’s picked up a bug before becoming concerned she may have appendicitis.

The girl’s parents take her to hospital where an x-ray reveals 14 magnets connected in a line inside her digestive system.

She has surgery, and doctors temporarily remove the girl’s intestines so they can remove the magnets. She faces a long recovery.

Her mum said: “I’ve no idea how she got to them, I can only think she thought they were sweets as they’re brightly coloured like a rainbow.
“I am just in shock and horror. Please, if anyone has these, just get rid of them. The end result could have been fatal.”

Girl tells parents she’s eaten magnetic toys

A four-year-old girl is playing with small magnetic beads. She swallows two of them and tells her mum and dad what she’s done.

They take her to hospital and she has emergency surgery to remove the magnetic balls from her bowel.

Her mum said: “I will never forgive myself for buying them. Once inside, the magnets connect to each other, pinching the tissue and eventually burning a hole in it.

“Luckily my daughter told me she had swallowed them so we were able to act quickly.
“Please, please I urge all parents if you have these magnet beads, throw them away immediately.”

More information

Learn why top doctors are so worried, read our tips for keeping children safe, 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.