4 Reasons Rare-Earth Magnets Spell Trouble for Children

Rare-Earth Magnets

One of hottest trends in consumer gadgets has been the use of rare-earth magnets. Typically marketed and packaged as toys for adults, you can whittle away hours with these compelling boredom busters. And they’re truly as fun as they are super strong. But rare-earth magnets have created the perfect storm for children.

Here’s why:

  1. Rare-earth magnets draw the attention of little eyes. Designed to draw the attention of fidgety adults, these small, shiny and bright toys have a way of naturally drawing the attention of roving toddler eyes. Despite our best intentions and care as parents.
  2. Rare-earth magnets are typically small. Children use their mouths and lips to explore their environment and the things they find there. Mistaken as candy, rare-earth magnet toys can find their way into the tummies of curious children.
  3. Rare-earth magnets like company. Once swallowed, these powerful magnets can find one another, even if they’re in different parts of the intestinal tract. And when they do, the super-powerful force between them pinches and restricts the blood flow in the tender bowel tissue in between. The result is a breakdown in the bowel wall with perforation and risk for life-threatening infection.
  4. Rare-earth magnets even create problems for older children. Teens have discovered that one magnet on top of the tongue and one below creates a faux piercing that’s guaranteed to terrorize parents. But when mistakenly swallowed, the trick can take a turn creating a potential surgical emergency.

While the Consumer Product Safety Commission has put the kibosh on these rare-earth toys, they may find their way to your child’s tummy through products from foreign countries. It’s best to avoid small toys that appear to be magnet-based. Even with the best intentions of keeping adult products for our own use, children are built to discover.

If you think your child may have ingested a rare-earth magnet, have them evaluated immediately in an emergency room accustomed to caring for children. The devastating effects of joined magnets can become apparent within hours.


About Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, gastroenterologist

I am the Director of Community Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Posted in Gastroenterology, Injury Prevention, Parenting

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