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Magnets, Batteries Fuel Swallowing Injuries: July 27, 2014

It can be a dangerous attraction-one Nicole Nolley never considered. She is a mother of five, from teens to toddlers.

“I’m constantly concerned about choking concerns and toys that are breaking. But magnets - I just never really thought of that,” says Nolley.

The number of magnet incidents seen at hospital ERs has jumped five-fold in eight years.

“The issue with magnets is, especially when there has been more then one magnet, if they go down into the bowel those magnets can stick together trapping the bowel wall between them,” says Dr. Carmen Garcia, an emergency department pediatrician with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Batteries are another hidden danger; tiny button batteries in particular. Found in toys and household items. Like calculators, watches, smart keys and something kids love to handle- remote controls.

“We’ve seen not necessarily an increase of batteries that are ingested, but a severity of cases we have been taking care of,” Dr. Garcia says.

The biggest risk in swallowing a button battery isn't choking. It’s burning. When a button battery is swallowed, the saliva triggers an electrical current that leads to a chemical reaction. “Lithium batteries – it’s more of an electrical activity that causes damage to the tissues around it. There are other types of batteries that can leak material that can also cause damage,” says Dr. Garcia.

Given time and opportunity, every parent knows where most things end up.

“Especially the baby, everything is in the mouth,” says Nolley.

Keeping batteries and magnets out of sight and out of reach can keep them out of harm’s way.