Since restrictions on the sale of high-powered magnets were lifted in 2016, injuries relating to magnets have skyrocketed, and experts are concerned that parents might not realize how serious injuries from these magnets can be. When swallowed, high-powered magnets are strong enough to connect inside the body, which can create holes in the intestines, requiring emergency surgery to fix. To help parents and caregivers keep their children safer, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center is joining other advocates across the country to raise awareness about the dangers of high-powered magnets.
High-powered magnets (also known as rare earth or neodymium magnets) can be found in a variety of products. Desk sets are large numbers of small, strong magnets that often come in a cube, ball, or egg shape, and the magnets are not enclosed in plastic or other material. Research shows that about half of injuries to children relating to high-powered magnets come from these types of sets.
There are also high-powered magnetic construction sets, which contain plastic rods with magnets at the ends and small metal balls, and tile or panel building sets, which enclose magnets in plastic tiles that are too large to be swallowed. Some of these products meet safety standards, but other might not, meaning parents and caregivers need to think carefully about what they are bringing into their homes.
Child magnet injuries have become increasingly common over the past few decades. A 2013 study co-authored by pediatrician and HIPRC core member Beth Ebel, M.D., MPH found that 74 percent of magnetic foreign bodies were ingested and 21 percent were intranasal.
High-powered magnet sets are one of those “hidden hazards” that put children of all ages, including older children and teens, at risk. Here’s what parents and caregivers should know:
High-powered magnets are more dangerous than many people realize.
It’s hard to keep track of them.
Just because a product is on the market does not mean it is safe to have in your home.
The symptoms after swallowing high-powered magnets are similar to common illnesses: vomiting (throwing up), fever, and stomach pain. If your child is showing these symptoms and you have high-powered magnets in your home, magnets might be the cause.
More safety information is available from Prevent Child Injury.
Prevent Child Injury is a national group of organizations and individuals, including researchers, health professionals, educators, and child advocates, working together to prevent injuries to children and adolescents in the U.S. Prevent Child Injury promotes coordinated communication to the public about prevention of child injury, which is the leading cause of death of our nation’s youth. To become a member of Prevent Child Injury or for more information and resources on this and other child injury topics, please visit www.preventchildinjury.org.