By: Hope Rosenfeld and Alice Burgess, Rush Medical College; and Dev Gowda, Kids In Danger

High powered magnets are shiny magnetic balls that can be fashioned into endless shapes and patterns, and are very appealing to children. However, they have proven deadly when accidentally swallowed.

The Magnet Ban: In November 2016, a ban on high-powered magnets was overturned, meaning the products are back on store shelves and easily available online. Since these magnets are marketed widely, it is crucial for parents to be aware of the damage they can cause. The magnetic sets are made of tiny and very powerful magnet balls or cubes, often with 100 or more magnets in one set. If swallowed, they can pull together with enough force to cause serious and life-threatening damage to the digestive system.

Inaccurate Information: Commercial advertisements for high-powered magnets can be confusing, and even misleading. Some manufacturers describe high-powered magnet sets as toys, but these are actually products designed for adults, so do not have to meet the same safety standards as children’s toys do. Some sites even use pictures of young children playing with high-powered magnet sets, even though the description says that the product is intended for teens or adults. Ultimately, the lack of accurate information makes it hard for consumers to know what is really safe for their child.

Risks Magnets Pose: Whether your children teenagers or are still in diapers, high-powered magnet sets put them at risk. If two high-powered magnets (or a magnet and another metal object) are swallowed, the magnets will pull toward each other inside the body, which can eventually cause holes in the tissue caught between them. These holes are life-threatening and require emergency surgery to fix. The symptoms after swallowing high-powered magnets are similar to common gastrointestinal illnesses: vomiting, fever, and stomach pain. If your child is showing these symptoms, and you have high-powered magnets in your home, magnet ingestion might be the cause.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges families with children not to have high-powered magnet sets in their home. ​

What can you do to help keep your children safe?

  • Stay up to date on recalls by signing up for notices at recalls.gov.
  • If you have high powered magnet sets or other small, powerful magnets at home, keep them out of reach of children.
  • Warn teens not to place the tiny magnetic balls near their faces (such as to mimic piercings) as this can cause injury.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you think a child has swallowed a magnet, and don’t assume it will pass normally.

More high-powered magnet safety information is available at Prevent Child Injury.

Remember: Just because a product is on the market, that does not mean it is safe to have in your home!