Magnetic toys designed for kids can provide a fun, educational experience. However, loose magnets and high-powered magnet sets can cause severe injuries in children if they're swallowed.
High-powered or "rare-earth" magnets, as they are also called, are far more powerful than other types of magnets. They're used in technology like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, as well as common household items like vacuum cleaners and washing machines.
Danger in toys
Among products posing the greatest danger to children are high-powered magnets sold as sets of 100 or more small magnetic balls or cubes. These can be arranged or "sculpted" into different shapes. The sets may be marketed as children's toys or novelty desk toys for adults.
Swallowing more than one of these magnets can be life-threatening. This is because the magnets can pull together in your child's digestive system with enough force to cause serious damage.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the federal agency that makes sure children's toys and other consumer products are safe. Due to reports of serious injuring to children from swallowing these magnets, the CPSC banned them in 2014. The ban was overturned in 2016.
Since then, research shows, there has been a sharp rise in reported injuries to children from high-powered magnets. The CPSC recently recalled two types of 5-millimeter magnetic sculpting balls after several children and teens who ingested them needed surgery, and a toddler who swallowed them died.
How to protect your children
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges families with children not to have high-powered magnet sets in their home. Follow these tips to protect your children from being injured by them:
Otherwise, keep products with small or loose magnets away from young children. The best option is a locked container in a high or hidden place.
Supervise young children carefully when anyone is using the magnets.
Put the magnets away promptly and check carefully to make sure none are left on the floor or anywhere a young child could find them.
If your child has toys with magnets, check often for cracks where a magnet could come loose.
- Don't purchase magnets in large sets. It's too hard to tell if a few of them have gone missing.
Talk to your older children and teens about the serious risks of using fake magnetic piercings in their mouths or noses. These are usually made with high-powered magnets. They can accidentally be swallowed or inhaled. They can also pinch your child's skin.
Symptoms of magnet ingestion
Children who have swallowed magnets may have these symptoms:
These symptoms are common in children, so you may not realize that your child has swallowed magnets right away.
What to do if your child swallowed a magnet
If you think your child has swallowed or been injured by a magnet, contact your pediatrician or the closest emergency department right away. Your child may need surgery. Putting off treatment can lead to severe injuries to your child's stomach, intestines, and digestive tract. It can even lead to death.
Reporting the injury
If your child has swallowed a magnet or has been injured by a magnetic product, you can report that injury to the CPSC at
You'll be asked to share your child's information, but it's not required.
The CPSC is required to publish accident or investigation reports. However, these reports don't include identifying information for either you or your child. If they need more information, the CPSC will contact you directly. Your contact information is not shared with others either.
The CPSC continues to fight for regulations to stop dangerous magnets and magnetic products from being sold. This may depend on them receiving reports of injuries associated with these products. If you or someone you know has witnessed a magnet-related injury, consider reporting the incident to the CPSC. Your input could help protect other children.