In the letter, Dr Anil Thomas George and Dr Sandeep Motiwale of Queen's Medical Center, part of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, UK, report two separate cases in the last 18 months of children needing surgery in order to remove swallowed magnets.
In both cases, the children accidentally swallowed magnets from small children's toys. In the first incident an 18-month-old-child swallowed 10 small magnetic spheres. In the second incident an 8-year-old child swallowed two 2-cm long magnetic strips. In both cases the children experienced mild stomach pain and doctors found that the magnets were lodged in their digestive systems.
Normally small objects which are accidentally swallowed by young children are able to pass through the digestive system without causing internal damage or illness. However, when multiple magnets are swallowing they can become attracted to each other and trap internal soft tissues between them, which can cause fistulas to develop.
A fistula is an abnormal connection between soft tissues inside the body and may lead to serious illness is left untreated.
Dr. George explained:
"We are particularly concerned about the widespread availability of cheap magnetic toys where the magnetic parts could become easily detached. Parents should be warned of the risk of magnet ingestion, particularly in small children. We believe that improvement in public awareness about this risk will be key in preventing such incidents."
Although similar concerns have been raised in the United States and Canada, this is the first time these concerns have been raised in the UK.
Dr. George said:
"While we understand that it may be impossible to prevent small children from occasionally swallowing objects, we would highlight to parents the potential harm that could arise from multiple magnet ingestion. We would advise parents to be more vigilant and take extra care when giving their children toys that may contain magnets small enough to swallow. We would also welcome an increased awareness of this problem among toy manufacturers, who have a responsibility to alert parents to the presence of magnets in their products."
This letter comes just over a month after a study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, which found that the number of ER visits by children under the age of 18 dealing with battery-related emergencies has doubled in the last two decades.
Written By Grace Rattue