Rare-earth magnets such as Neodymium magnets are up to 15 times more powerful than traditional magnets. They are inexpensive and readily available, often used in children’s toys, manufacturing and adult toys marketed as stress relievers. Since they are small and brightly coloured they are easily ingested by young children. There have also been case reports of older children using magnets as fake tongue and cheek piercings, leading to accidental ingestion.
A rise in these presentations led to a National Patient Safety Alert (4) and release of an RCEM Best Practice Guideline (5) in May 2021.
Ingesting >1 magnet or co-ingesting a magnet and a metal object should be treated as an emergency even if the child is asymptomatic. This is because they can be attracted to each other within the body, trapping pieces of bowel and causing perforation or obstruction. Weaker “ordinary” magnets can also cause serious harm and should be managed in the same way.
D. James, Paed Emergency Medicine Consultant, UHS
R. Broomfield, Paed Emergency Medicine Consultant, UHS
M. Stanton, Paediatric Surgical Consultant, UHS
K. Lines, Emergency Medicine Trainee
Wessex Paediatric Emergency Medicine Clinical Network
Date of Approval: