Health professionals issue Christmas toy warning after boy nearly dies after swallowing magnets

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Healthcare professionals have issued a warning to parents in the run-up to Christmas after a 4-year-old boy nearly died after swallowing 52 magnets.
Christmas is traditionally a time when children receive presents, some of which are made up of small parts, magnets and batteries. While health professionals want children to enjoy playing with toys over the festive period, they are urging parents to be vigilant.

Representatives from Public Health Wales have encouraged parents to avoid buying toys that contain small magnets and button batteries after a 4-year-old boy named Jude nearly died after swallowing a string of beads, which contained over 50 tiny magnets. Jude, from Merthyr Tydfil, became ill during the summer. He was sick for a period of eight weeks and suddenly developed severe abdominal pain. His mother, Lyndsey, rushed him to hospital. When he got to Prince Charles Hospital, Jude had a series of tests, all of which came back normal apart from an X-ray. At first glance, the doctor assumed that Jude was lying on a necklace, but it dawned on Lyndsey that her son, now 5, must have swallowed the magnetic beads.

After discovering the chain of beads on the X-ray, Jude was sent immediately to Cardiff Children’s Hospital in an ambulance. Lyndsey said that she started to panic as it became clear how serious the situation was. She had bought the magnetic beads as a present for her daughter, Poppy, who is eight years old.  Lyndsey said that she had no idea that Jude had been swallowing the beads over a prolonged period during the summer and was shocked to see the quantity of mini magnets on the X-ray. The surgeon told her that if she had waited much longer to bring him into hospital, he could have died. 

Swallowing the beads had caused damage to Jude’s bowel, causing a leak, which meant that an infection was spreading around his body. Doctors explained to Lyndsey that he was essentially being poisoned because the magnets were making holes in Jude’s bowel. Surgeons at the Children’s Hospital in Cardiff operated for seven hours, carefully removing the beads. Jude was in bed in hospital for a week after the procedure and wasn’t able to eat anything. He was attached to wires and pipes, which meant that Lyndsey couldn’t even cuddle him, but she stayed by his side and he started to recover gradually. Fortunately, Jude has now made a full recovery and he has no lasting effects from the incident. Doctors had warned that he may end up with a colostomy bag or monthly vitamin injections before the operation.

As parents and relatives prepare for Christmas, Lyndsey wanted to share her story to highlight the dangers of toys that contain small parts like magnets and button batteries. She urged anyone who has the magnetic beads at home to get rid of them if they have small children in the house and said that she will always feel guilty for buying the toy. Consultant in environmental public health at Public Health Wales, Sarah Jones, urged parents to be cautious when buying toys or giving their children gifts that other people have bought them. Toys that contain mini magnets and button batteries are particularly dangerous and they should “always be stored out of the reach of small children,” Ms Jones stressed. 

Swallowing is one of the most common incidents parents face when raising young children, as small children often pick things up and put them straight in their mouths. In most cases, there is no risk of long-term damage or serious side-effects, but with batteries and magnets, the consequences can be devastating. The advice for parents is to check age recommendations, supervise older children if there are small children in the house and avoid leaving anything that has button batteries or tiny magnets within reach of young kids. It’s also important to check that battery compartments are closed properly before giving toys to children.