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Magnetic Toys Pose Risk of Severe Bowel Injury

One boy died after swallowing magnetic parts of a sibling's toy building set

MONDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Children who swallow parts of magnetic toys containing powerful rare-earth magnets risk death or serious gastrointestinal injury, according to a report in the Dec. 8 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 20 cases in which young children were seriously injured after swallowing magnetic toy parts between 2003 and 2006. The children ranged in age from 10 months to 11 years; the majority were boys.

One 20-month-old boy died after nine magnets he swallowed from a sibling's toy building set bound together in his intestine, causing necrosis, bowel perforation and sepsis. Five of the children required intensive care after swallowing magnets. Three-quarters of the patients had perforated bowels; four had obstructed bowels and peritonitis; three had volvulus.

Eighteen of the children swallowed one to nine magnets; two swallowed 15 magnets each. Most were toy parts, some from their toys, from siblings' toys or from toys at a daycare or school.

"Caregivers should keep products with magnets out of environments where children aged under 6 years are playing and be aware of the unique risks if ingested," the authors write. "If caregivers suspect a child has ingested a magnet, they should seek health care promptly."

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