Number of Kids Who Swallowed Magnets Quintupled Between 2002 and 2011

"It is common for children to put things in their mouth and nose, but the risk of intestinal damage increases dramatically when multiple magnets are swallowed," said lead study author Jonathan Silverman, MD, of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash. "The ingestion of multiple magnets can severely damage intestinal walls to the point that some kids need surgery. The magnets in question were typically those found in kitchen gadgets or desk toys marketed to adults but irresistible to children."

Over a 10-year period, 22,581 magnetic foreign body injuries were reported among children. Between 2002 and 2003, incidence of injury was 0.57 cases per 100,000 children; between 2010 and 2011, that jumped to 3.06 cases per year out of 100,000 children. The majority of the cases occurred in 2007 or later.

In cases where children ingested multiple magnets, 15.7 percent were admitted to the hospital (versus 2.3 percent of single magnet ingestions). Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of magnets were swallowed; twenty-one percent were ingested through the nose. Nearly one-quarter (23.4 percent) of the case reports described the magnets as "tiny," or other variants on the word "small."

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