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Magnets (High-Powered)

Medium Risk

Also known as:

Buckyballs Geomag™ Neodymium magnet rare earth magnet Speks Zen magnets

A red and silver, U-shaped, high-power magnet draws in small, magnetic balls.
Possible Symptoms
  • Vague abdominal pain with a general feeling of discomfort
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Mild fever
  • Abdominal pain that can progress to severe pain and abdominal rigidity
What to Do
  1. Look between cheeks and gums, remove any magnets found.
  2. Do not try to induce vomiting.
  3. Call 1-800-222-1222 for additional instructions.

Important

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Additional Information

Quick Facts About High-Powered Magnets

This information is NOT about the typical flexible or refrigerator magnets that have been widely used in most homes.

This information is regarding rare earth or high-powered magnets. These magnets were invented in the 1970’s-1980’s and are the strongest magnetic material in the world. The auto and technology industries use rare earth magnets among many other industries. They now have widespread uses in common household consumer goods, including but not limited to toys, jewelry, flashlights, shower curtains, knife racks, handbags, tongue piercings, and earrings. The first mass-marketed product, Buckyballs, became available in 1985. Later that same year, the first concerns with this type of magnet rose in medical literature.

The most common rare earth magnets used in products are neodymium magnets. These are composed of neodymium, iron, and boron. They are metallic in appearance and typically coated with nickel, zinc, or epoxy resin to prevent corrosion. The rare earth magnets found in toys are commonly encased in plastic. They come in shapes such as blocks and tiles, intended for building and creative play. These toys pose no risk to children as long as the magnet stays housed inside the plastic covering.

There are adult-marketed magnet sets. They typically stay on a work desk, sculpted into different shapes for use as boredom and stress-relievers. However, the magnets can be very attractive to young children. So when set out on a desk, curious children can easily access them.

Swallowing One Magnet vs. Two

Swallowing one strong magnet is not considered a problem, other than it lodging in the throat or becoming a choking hazard. The problem with high-powered magnets is when someone swallows more than one magnet or swallows a magnet and a steel object (it happens). When this occurs, the two objects attract each other inside the body. Their attraction is so strong they can find each other across the walls of the organs, pinching the walls so tightly it cuts off blood flow. This can result in permanent damage, and sometimes the injuries are life-threatening.

Very often parents discover their child has had access to the magnets after the fact, when it is impossible to determine how many (if any) of the magnets the child swallowed. There have been cases when parents bring their child into an emergency department due to ongoing symptoms of abdominal pain and vomiting. Later, X-rays reveal the presence of magnets, without the parents even being aware an ingestion had occurred.

Additionally, the ingestion of magnets is not limited to just children. There are products intended for teens and adults— like those meant to mimic cheek or tongue piercing— which can be easily swallowed by accident. If a solo magnet is swallowed, or if they are attached to each other at the time of swallowing, it is not a problem. However, if the magnets are separated from each other at the time of the ingestion, there is a risk of them attracting each other inside the body.

Call the Missouri Poison Center Right Away

If you find someone has swallowed a high-powered magnet or even suspect they swallowed one, it is important to call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222. Every situation is different. A poison specialist needs to evaluate the situation. They will determine if the ingestion can be watched at home with close phone follow-up or if it requires immediate medical attention.

Take The Missouri Poison Center With You

Emergencies don’t wait for you, so you shouldn’t have to wait to call for help. Get the Missouri Poison Center app with poison information and a link to the Poison Help Line. It is just a click away during the most stressful moments. Our registered nurses and pharmacists are here 24/7/365 days a year to help guide you through poison exposures and overdose emergencies.

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