Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Baby

Font Size

Swallowed Magnets Are Dangerous

Multiple Magnets Can Hurt Digestive Tract
WebMD Health News

Oct. 26, 2004 -- Magnets pose a real danger to children. Intentional or accidental ingestion may require emergency surgery, doctors say.

Children (or adults) who swallow more than one magnet need emergency medical attention, according to radiologist Alan Oestreich, MD, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Ohio.

It's never a good idea for kids (or anyone else) to swallow inedible objects, but it happens frequently. According to researchers, most foreign bodies (80%) that reach the stomach get passed yet 10%-20% may require direct retrieval by a doctor. Fewer than 2% of incidents can cause intestinal blockage or rupture requiring emergency intervention.

That's why Oestreich noted the magnet hazard in a letter to the editor of Radiology in the journal's November edition.

Unlike foreign bodies that can pass through the body with relatively little trouble, magnets can seriously damage the stomach or intestine by attracting each other through the lining of different loops of intestine. Ultimately, the magnets could cause a lack of blood flow in the lining and puncture the lining of the intestine.

That's why anyone who swallows multiple magnets should seek immediate medical attention, which could include surgery, says Oestreich.

The advice applies to all ages.

Babies and toddlers, for instance, have natural curiosity but are too young to know much about safety. However, older children and adults could also be hurt by ingesting magnets.

A 12-year-old autistic boy who had swallowed magnets at a summer camp suffered abdominal pain for days until an X-ray showed the magnets, which were then removed.

Likewise, a 9-year-old girl had an intestinal perforation after swallowing 12 small magnets.

Citing those two cases in his Radiology letter, Oestreich urges all radiologists to look out for magnets on abdominal X-rays.

He also warns against using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on any patients who might have swallowed magnets.

Magnets may be more common in homes and schools than you think. They're used as decorative and organizational items (like those on refrigerator doors), toy components, and as therapeutic health objects. Used properly, magnets should not present a problem, as long as they stay outside the body.

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

Today on WebMD

mother on phone holding baby
When you should call 911.
parents and baby
Unexpected ways your life will change.
baby acne
What’s normal – and what’s not.
baby asleep on moms shoulder
Help your baby get the sleep he needs.

mother holding baby at night
mother with sick child
Chinese mother breast feeding newborn baby girl
Track Your Babys Vaccines
Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
Woman holding feet up to camera
Father kissing newborn baby
baby gear slideshow