Tiny ball shaped neodymium magnets, which are widely sold as creative building toys, started a trend on the video social media app where users pretend they have facial piercings by putting two magnets either side of part of their face. Most notably, kids have accidentally swallowed the tiny magnets after pretending to have a tongue piercing.
Top NHS officials have called for a total ban on the magnets after the dangerous trend left at least 65 children needing immediate surgery in the last three years.
Professor Simon Kenny, national clinical director for children and young people at NHS England, 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.
“There is nothing fun for children or their parents about surgery to remove magnets that have been swallowed and become stuck together through different parts of the intestines, or the long-term physical problems and internal scarring that can be left behind.
“I would urge parents to be aware of the dangers associated with magnetic toys but ultimately, the only way we can prevent future incidents is to stop these items being sold altogether.”
Swallowed magnets can inflict gruesome damage to the digestive tract by cutting off blood supply to parts of the body.
The small but powerful objects are only 6mm in diameter.
One case from last week left an 11-year-old boy fighting for his life at Birmingham Children’s hospital. He swallowed several magnets.
Ellis Tripp had two major surgeries and had to have five inches of his bowel removed.
“If magnets don’t meet safety standards, they may be super strong and potentially life-threatening.”