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Dangers of swallowing mini magnet toys

Published: 4 January 2023

Public Health Wales are warning parents of the dangers of toys with mini magnets this Christmas. It follows the case of a schoolboy from South Wales who had emergency surgery after swallowing 52 magnets from a fidget toy. 

Jude is usually an energetic five year old, so his Mum Lynsey got concerned when her son began getting what she thought were recurring sickness bugs. They went to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with a virus, but the bouts of sickness continued for several weeks. One night he was in a lot of pain, so she took him to A & E. A physical examination and blood tests showed nothing abnormal. It wasn’t until the doctors scanned Jude’s stomach and spotted what they thought was a necklace that the problem became clear. Jude had 52 magnetic balls stuck together in a ring in his bowel. 7 hours of emergency surgery followed. Doctors had to cut the bowel in five places as the magnets were trapped. They also had to remove his appendix as one of the magnets had joined it to his bowel.

It was a week before Jude could get out of bed, but his Mum Lynsey is very relieved that he has now made a good recovery from his surgery. She urges other parents not to buy these toys at all;

“It was lucky that he was operated on that night or it could have been fatal. You don’t expect something so bad to happen from a child’s toy.”

Ingestion of mini magnets and button batteries can cause serious internal injuries if swallowed. Multiple magnets can stick together inside a child’s stomach resulting in the need for major abdominal surgery. Studies show that in around 40% of cases, children swallow the item without anyone noticing. In many cases the child may not initially show any clinical symptoms or signs either. 

Sarah Jones, Consultant in Environmental Public Health, said:

“We are asking parents to think carefully before buying products containing magnets and button batteries for children. Mini magnet toys don’t make good stocking fillers. They should always be stored out of the reach of small children. Similar dangers come from children swallowing button batteries too. Parents should make sure the button battery compartment is properly closed and secure on all toys before giving them to children.”