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Steep rise in number of children ingesting magnets

It is fairly common for young children to swallow foreign objects. But according to a new study, children seem to be increasingly attracted to ingesting magnets.

The study, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, revealed that cases involving children swallowing magnets has increased more than five times over a 10-year period.

The researchers say that over this period, ingestion of magnets has generally resulted in more serious outcomes, including emergency surgery.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Washington, analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System for cases of magnetic foreign bodies in children under 21-years-old, between 2002 and 2011.

Cases were analyzed by location of ingestion, including:

Alimentary or respiratory tract Nasal cavity Ear canal Genital area.

The results of the analysis showed that between 2002 and 2003, the incidence of injury caused by magnet ingestion was 0.57 cases for every 100,000 children per year.

Between 2010 and 2011, 3.06 cases were reported for every 100,000 children per year, with the majority of injuries occurring after 2007.

The study showed that 74% of magnets were swallowed, while 21% of magnets were ingested nasally.

The report revealed that 23.4% of the magnets ingested were reported as "small" or "tiny."

Additionally, of children who ingested multiple magnets, 15.7% were admitted to hospital, compared to 2.3% of children who swallowed single magnets.

Dr. Jonathan Silverman of the department of pediatrics at the University of Washington, and lead study author, says:

"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."

"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."

The research also revealed that the average age of the children ingesting magnets was 5.2 years, but for nasal magnetic foreign bodies, the mean age was 10.1 years.

Dr. Silverman adds:

"There were proportionally more nasal injuries involving older children, possibly because strong, attractive magnets are being used to imitate nose, tongue, lip or cheek piercings. Parents need to be aware of the serious risk these rare-earth magnets pose if swallowed."

This study is not the first to look at the dangers of ingesting magnets during childhood. Research from Nottingham University Hospitals in the UK found that there were an increasing number of children swallowing magnets, particularly magnets found on children's toys.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also previously issued an alert to pediatricians about the dangers of magnet ingestions in children. They aimed to encourage pediatricians to talk to patients about magnet safety, know the symptoms of magnet ingestions, and report injuries and incidences of magnet ingestion to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

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