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Magnets Can Be a Dangerous Attraction: February 13, 2014

Any parent will tell you, it’s impossible to guess why kids do what they do- and why so many are attracted to magnets. But ER doctors say it’s so.

“We know that children - they’re exploring, especially when they’re younger. Kids are going to go around and put things in their mouths,” says Dr. Carmen Garcia, pediatric emergency medicine physician with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Over the last decade more and more U.S. children ended up in the emergency room after swallowing magnets. It can present a medical crisis, especially when they’re ingested as multiples.

“If they go down into the bowel, those magnets can stick together trapping the bowel wall between them and they can cause some damage or perforation of the bowel,” says Dr. Garcia.

It’s news to Nicole Nalley. This mother of five thought she’d seen it all.

“Usually I’m up to date on all this but no I haven’t heard of the magnets,” says Nalley.

It goes to show what you don't know can hurt you. The number of magnet incidents seen at hospitals jumped five-fold in eight years. Some were swallowed; others were put up the nose. The most common age was 5.

The reason for the increase - it may just be there are more magnets around us. Mom Nalley scoured her brain.

“None that I can think of, other then maybe some refrigerator magnets like the ABC’s and the numbers.  I just threw them away because they ended up more on the floor then on the fridge,” says Nalley.

Culprits include desk-toys like buckeyballs; they’re round and easy to swallow.

“Magnets particularly have become very popular as well and they’re everywhere. So certainly you need to make sure you child proof your house and think of things you don’t routinely think,” says Dr. Garcia.

Swallowing a magnet merits immediate medical attention. You shouldn’t stick it out, and assume it will pass normally.