Home and Community Safety & Health Safety COVID-19

Study shows big increase in kids swallowing batteries and magnets during the pandemic

Photo: Beisea/iStockphoto

San Diego — Batteries and small magnets have been the most commonly swallowed foreign objects among kids during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.

Using 2017-2020 data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from more than 100 hospitals, researchers looked at foreign body ingestions among children 17 and younger. They found that although the number of emergency room visits involving overall ingestions remained about the same each year – around 55,000-60,000 – “the proportionate number of button or cylindrical battery and magnet ingestions increased significantly,” an American Academy of Pediatrics press release states.

“Button batteries and small, rare-earth magnet sets represent the most dangerous objects a child can ingest,” Capt. Patrick T. Reeves, a pediatric gastroenterologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at the medical center, said in the release. “Due to their abilities to cause electromagnetic force discharge, these objects can tear through tissue, cause bleeding and even death. Parents should treat these objects like the Dark Side of the Force and strive to decrease children’s access to these items in the home.”


In August, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a mandatory recall of high-powered magnetic balls and cubes. The researchers, however, call for additional safety measures, including educational campaigns directed at children, parents, caregivers and clinicians “to prevent the purchase of these items and ways to remove them from the home.”

The study abstract was presented in October during the virtual AAP National Conference & Exhibition.

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