It is the holiday season, and that means lots of new toys and gadgets for kids to play with.  Among these toys, there could be a danger lurking that many people are unaware of.  Many popular toys these days contain magnets, whether openly visible in magnetic building sets, or concealed within a toy.  Magnets can be fascinating, and very fun to play with, but they can also pose serious dangers to children and pets alike. 

Most magnetic toys use neodymium, rare earth magnets, that are very strong, even when very small.  These magnets are the most powerful magnets on Earth, and if not used carefully and under close supervision, can cause injury and in extreme cases, can even be fatal.  Neodymium magnets have an incredibly strong pull force and can attract to each other from great distances.  If not handled properly, these magnets can snap together extremely fast and cause painful pinched fingers, or blood blisters from getting your skin caught between the magnets.  While these injuries can be painful, the most serious problem with magnetic toys is when magnets are ingested or inhaled by children or pets that are left unsupervised. 

Often, there are little to no symptoms of magnet ingestion for a day or two.  When symptoms do present themselves, they often resemble flu like symptoms at first.  There may be nausea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain.  Time is a crucial component when diagnosing a child or pet who has swallowed magnets, if left untreated it can result in severe shock or even death. The real danger occurs when two or more rare earth magnets are ingested into the body.  This poses such a serious threat because the magnets are so powerful that they will attract to each other through walls of tissue or organs. This attraction can cause a perforation or tearing of the bowel or pin the walls of the intestines together causing a blockage.  Most cases, if caught in time, are not fatal but they generally require surgery to remove the magnets and repair or remove damaged tissue.  If you suspect that a child or pet has ingested a magnet, take them immediately to a health care facility or veterinarian. Do not induce vomiting or give them any food or drink.  The diagram below illustrates what can happen when 2 or more magnets are ingested.

Magnets and their amazing properties are fascinating to children and adults alike, and can be very educational, fun and useful.  This is the reason they are a popular choice among toy manufacturers and have been incorporated into many children’s toys as well as many other common household items.  It is imperative that adults educate their children about the dangers of magnets and are diligent in monitoring smaller children if they are using any product that has magnetic components, as well as, watching pets to make sure magnetic products are out of reach at all times.  Parents should check their child’s magnetic toys for any loose pieces and always be vigilant where magnets are involved.