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What to Do If Your Child Swallows a Magnet

ABC News(NEW ORLEANS) -- Dr. Robert Noel, an associate professor of pediatrics in the Gastroenterology Division at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans, offered these tips for parents and caregivers who might have magnet toys in their home or suspect their child has swallowed a magnet.

Because magnet toys have industrial strength magnetic force, they find each other, or anything else made of metal, inside the body just as easily as outside. The tissue is trapped between which can result in:

•    Holes in the tissue of the esophagus, stomach, intestines
•    Infection
•    Fistulas
•    Bowel Obstructions
•    Tissue Death
•    Death

Tips for Parents, Caregivers Who Have Magnet Toys in Their Home:

•    If you have children and are not using these magnets then dispose of them safely.
•    If you have them and are still using them then put them away in a safe place preferably in a locked cabinet or locked container but definitely out of the reach of children.
•    If you have adolescents that use these magnets educate them on safe use and storage of the magnets when not in use.  Especially emphasize that younger siblings should not be allowed to touch these magnets.
•    Educate your older children and teens about the risks of swallowing these magnets. Never permit them to use these magnets as face, body or mouth jewelry (such as to mimic piercings)
•    If you have these magnet toys in your house, count them when you first use them, and count them each time before you put them away to account for all of them.
•    Encourage your child to tell you immediately if an accident happens and he or she swallows a magnet or sees another child swallow one.
•    Regularly check toys and play areas, including carpeting, for dislodged or lost magnets.
•    Run another magnet or an object made of a ferrous metal around play areas, couches, chair cushions, etc. to pick up lost magnets.
•    Consider using these magnets in a contained space such as on a tray where loose magnets can be contained to prevent them from dropping on the floor, carpet or into or under furniture.
•    If you cannot account for all magnets after they have been out and used then evaluate the possibility that a child could have accidentally swallowed them.
•    If it is possible that a young child could have swallowed them then immediately seek medical attention. Symptoms maybe not present or minimal until there is significant injury.
•    Do not delay an evaluation if magnet ingestion is possible since substantial injury can occur within hours of ingestion.
•    Don’t assume a swallowed magnet will pass normally.  These magnets are very likely to be attracted to one another and trap intestine between them causing them to become stuck inside your child.

What You Should Do if You Suspect That Your Child Has Swallowed a Magnet:

•    If you think your teenager, toddler or child has swallowed these magnets, immediately seek medical attention by calling your doctor or go to the emergency department.
•    Don’t assume a swallowed magnet will pass normally.
•    If your child has any unexplained stomach symptoms and these magnets are present in your household then consider the possibility that they have swallowed these magnets and take them to the emergency room for an x-ray evaluation.
•    If the doctor says he sees only a single magnet on the x-ray and it is all right for your child to go home, make sure he has taken at least two different x-ray views. Two magnets trapping a piece of intestine between them can appear as one magnet when one magnet is behind the other in an x-ray picture.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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