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Many parents are horrified that their child might swallow an object. This may be harmless, but caution should always be exercised. This becomes dangerous, for example, when it comes to button batteries, emphasize the Children’s Health Foundation. When a button cell in a child’s esophagus is swallowed, contact with moist mucous membranes can cause severe chemical burns.

What many people don’t know is that swallowed magnets can also be extremely dangerous for children. Pediatric gastroenterologist Markus Schmitt from the Helios Emil von Behring Clinic in Berlin draws attention to this.

If a child swallows several magnets, they will stick to each other due to their attraction – and therefore can get stuck in the bowel loops. Result: they cannot be transported further and excreted from the body.

According to Schmitt, the intestinal mucosa can also be damaged. Due to the pressure of the magnets, the blood supply to these areas ceases to be good – the cells die. It becomes life-threatening if a hole forms between the inside of the intestine and the abdominal cavity.

Don’t waste time and hurry to the doctor

To prevent this from happening, parents should seek medical attention quickly if a child has swallowed magnets. X-rays are usually used to determine the number of magnets in the body.

Once the magnets are in the stomach, they can be removed with an endoscope. This is a long flexible rubber tube with a camera that is inserted into the stomach through the esophagus, naturally under general anesthesia. Since the endoscope itself is slightly magnetic, Schmitt says it attracts the guilty and thus prevents worse things from happening. (dpa/af)