Warning after boy swallows toy magnets

Children who swallow the magnets found on or in many toys could face serious complications, according to two Swedish doctors writing in medical publication Läkartidningen this week.

The surgeons, from Vrinnevis hospital in Norrköping, described a recent case of a three year old who was found to have several holes in his stomach after swallowing three small, but strong, toy magnets.

The little boy was admitted to hospital with fever and stomach pain. He had vomited and had been complaining of “pain in his penis”. An x-ray scan revealed that there was a small object in the upper part of his intestine and his mother said that he had ingested the magnet two weeks before.

The boy was operated on immediately and surgeons found a number of perforations in his intestines, which had led to leakage into his abdomen. At first the doctors could not understand the cause of the problem since the object appeared to be a single completely harmless little magnet.

On the morning after the operation the answer became clear. Instead of one magnet, the boy had in fact swallowed three extremely strong magnets on different occasions.

During their journey through him, they had been drawn to each other through the intestinal walls, and the body tissue had not been strong enough to withstand the forces.

“There are small, powerful neodym magnets ingames and toys of different kinds and they have become popular for fixing objects to, for example, refridgerators,” wrote doctors Gunnar Arbman and Thomas Jonsberg in Läkartidningen.

The often brightly-coloured objects can be irresistable for curious toddlers who may have just learned to love candy. By themselves, the magnets appear to be harmless, but together they can have serious consequences.

“Careful monitoring is recommended with repeated stomach examinations,” advised Arbman and Jonsberg in the event that a magnet disappears into a small child.

In total there have been around ten reported cases of injuries caused due to swallowed magnets. The three year old Norrköping boy who prompted the report has now completely recovered.