Warning After Toddler Swallows 32 Small Magnets At Home During Isolation

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By Emma Brancatisano | 10 daily news reporter

Parents are being urged to keep an eye on small magnets in toys during isolation amid a “concerning” spike in children being admitted to hospital.

Melbourne toddler Imogen Ferguson, two, needed emergency surgery at Monash Children’s Hospital last week after she swallowed 32 small “ball-bearing-style” magnets from inside a toy.

Imogen’s mother, Teigan Brown, said she left her two daughters “for two seconds” when they got their hands on the toy.

Imogen’s sister Heidi also swallowed two balls.

“I didn’t realise the girls had the toy until [Heidi] came in and said the little one had put one in  her mouth and swallowed it,” Brown told reporters.

“I thought, okay, it was just one … so I kept a close eye on her.”

The next morning, Brown said her daughter was unsettled and had a high temperature. She took her to hospital where an X-ray showed Imogen had in fact swallowed 32 magnetic balls and needed surgery.

“I cried, and cried,” Brown said.

An X-ray revealed Imogen had swallowed 32 magnets. Image: Supplied

Paediatric surgeon Dr Chris Kimber said Imogen’s case is part of a “concerning” spike in admissions during the pandemic as families spend more time at home.

He said four children have been admitted to Victorian children’s hospitals for magnet ingestion in the last three weeks, in contrast to the “odd case” in the last three years.

Three of those cases required major surgery, with the children suffering multiple holes in their bowels.

“What happens is you have a magnet in one area of the bowel and another magnet in another area, and they attract each other and burn a hole through,” Kimber explained.

“If there are blood vessels in the way, they erode through them and cause significant bleeding.

Kimber said these injuries can be “catastrophic” and potentially life-threatening.

It has deeply concerned us as paediatric surgeons. We think these cases are preventable.

Kimber said the magnetic balls are often hidden in older children’s toys, such as plastic building blocks. He urged parents to remain vigilant and to keep these toys away from their toddlers.

Meanwhile, Imogen’s mother is thankful her daughter is recovering well in hospital.

“It could have been a lot worse,” she said.

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