December 11, 2008

Kids who swallow magnets need treatment

U.S. researchers say children are not receiving treatment for swallowing magnets -- often found in holiday gifts -- quickly enough.

Researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center say if not treated immediately, magnets may often stick to each other across a bowel wall and can cause significant problems such as an infection in the digestive tract.

In nearly every case, surgery or endoscopy has been required to remove the magnets and repair damage. One child died of sepsis before surgery or endoscopy could be performed.

The study, which identified 128 instances of magnet swallowing across 21 countries, published online in the journal Pediatric Radiology, urges parents to be particularly careful as they decide which toys their children should have and to be aware of deceptively mild symptoms that may indicate a child has swallowed multiple magnets.

The majority of swallowed magnetic objects were components of toy sets, including many well-known brands, study author Dr. Alan Oestreich says in a statement.

Many of the children represented in the survey were 5 years of age or younger and dependent on their parents or guardians to ensure they do not have access to multiple small magnets.