DOZENS of children have been left needing life-saving surgery after swallowing small magnets as the NHS calls for a ban on the toys.
When children swallow magnets, they fuse in their intestines or bowels and squeeze off the blood supply, causing significant damage, health officials have warned.
At least 65 children have been admitted to hospital for urgent surgery in England after swallowing magnets in the past three years.
The NHS has now issued a national patient safety alert – advising every hospital and GP that these cases should be treated as an emergency.
Professor Simon Kenny, NHS England national clinical director for children and young people, said: “Magnets are a source of fascination for children, and magnetic toys can look like a cheap and cheerful way of occupying the kids, but ultimately they aren’t safe and shouldn’t be for sale.”
Just this week, 11-year-old Ellis Tripp was in critical condition after five tiny magnetic balls were discovered in his intestines and bowel.
It is feared the boy, from Worcester, may have been performing a dangerous TikTok craze which sees youngsters pretend to have their tongue pierced.
Mum Amy Clarke, 31, posted her heartfelt plea urging other parents to get rid of the balls.
She posted on Facebook: “I’m in a nightmare.
“This TikTok craze could/would have killed him if left any longer. Please talk to your children and tell them how DANGEROUS THESE ARE.
“Magneto Beads are deadly if swallowed. They even have them in educational/childcare settings for children to play with. DESTROY THEM!”
The hidden dangers of magnets
Doctors have urged parents to be careful of magnets
If swallowed, magnets stick to each other through loops of gastrointestinal tract.
That means they can cause bowel perforation or intestinal blockages – or even cut off the blood supply to internal organs.
The injuries sustained can be life-threatening.
But magnets can be just as dangerous if only one is swallowed.
Last January, a doctor issued a serious warning to parents over a potentially deadly magnetic ball craze, which had left at least four children needing surgery.
The trend involves youngsters placing small magnetic balls inside their mouth to mimic tongue and cheek piercings.
The balls have already been made illegal in some countries due to the potentially fatal consequences.
The TikTok trend sees teens using magnetic balls as fake piercing on either side of their tongue – which has led to a rise in hospital admissions as some swallow the balls.
The magnets continue to work even once inside the body and can stick to each other through loops of the gastrointestinal tract, potentially causing bowel perforation or intestinal blockage.
In February, a mum warned parents to chuck out magnet toys after her four-year-old swallowed balls that can burn holes in intestines and the bowel.
Hayley Take’s daughter needed an emergency operation after she swallowed two small magnet balls while she was playing.
And earlier this year, a toddler was left fighting for life after she swallowed 14 magnets – thinking they were sweets.
Becca McCarthy, who was just 22 months old, swallowed the brightly coloured balls bought from eBay when mum Sam was not looking.
Katrina Phillips, of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, warned parents: “If magnets don’t meet safety standards, they may be super strong and potentially life-threatening.”
The Trust recently said there is “a disturbing trend in serious injuries from children swallowing small, round, coloured magnets from magnetic toys”
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They said: “The magnets stick together internally and through organs and tissues, and can cut off blood supply causing tissue to die. They are much more complex than button batteries to extract.
“The child will need emergency surgery, then, depending on the severity of the injuries, they may need numerous operations, bowel resection and time in paediatric intensive care.”