January 26, 2020

Magnetic Fake Facial Piercings Dangerous for Kids

It is with some alarm that I have seen a few young school-age children with fake facial piercings using magnetic balls (small magnet in the mouth and the other on the face). Inevitably, kids being kids, they potentially can accidentally swallow such magnetics without understanding the grave consequences of this occurrence. The dire results would be true not just in kids, but also in adults.

Such magnetic balls are being sold on Amazon, Etsy, and other stores as either an alternative to ear/facial piercings or as a creative STEM toy.

Accidentally swallowing ONE magnetic ball is not a problem as it will pass without consequence through the intestines (unless MRI scan is done while this single ball is still inside the body). However, if more than one magnetic ball gets swallowed, the magnets will attract toward each other as it passes through the intestines potentially resulting in a devastating intestinal rupture which can be life-threatening.

Still confused? Take a look at the picture below.



The two black dots are the magnetic balls traversing through the intestine. By the third image, the magnetic balls come together and over time, kill the intestinal lining compressed between the magnetic balls. The would result in an intestinal perforation.

Due to this danger, such magnetic balls have become illegal to be sold in some countries, though not in the United States. This danger is also not hypothetical. Here are a sampling of reports of young kids needing surgery after swallowing magnetic balls.

• Doctors warn over magnetic ball-bearing craze after children left needing surgery. Independent 2/23/18
Gastrointestinal Injuries from Magnet Ingestion in Children. CDC 12/8/06
Magnets, children and the bowel: A dangerous attraction? World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Oct 14; 18(38): 5324–5328.
Unwitnessed magnet ingestion in a 5 year-old boy leading to bowel perforation after magnetic resonance imaging: case report of a rare but potentially detrimental complication. Patient Safety in Surgery volume 6, Article number: 16 (2012)
Multiple Magnet Ingestion as a Source of Severe Gastrointestinal Complications Requiring Surgical Intervention. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162(2):123-125. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2007.35

Now you know... and please keep such items away from children, even if they and others think it's cute to see such facial piercings on children.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. He is also the chief medical officer of O2Labz, a medical and scientific 3D animation company.

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