Toy magnets used in viral 'tongue piercing' craze should be banned, NHS warns

29 May 2021, 07:34

The NHS has issued a warning over toy magnets
The NHS has issued a warning over toy magnets. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Tiny toy magnets which are used as fake tongue piercings in a TikTok craze should be banned, the NHS has said.

At least 65 children needed urgent surgery after swallowing the powerful magnets in the last three years.

A viral prank on social media such as TikTok sees users place two magnetic balls on either side of their tongue, which looks like a piercing.

But accidentally swallowing and ingesting more than one of the 6mm magnets could be life-threatening and cause damage.

The magnets are forced together in the intestines or bowels and they squeeze tissue, cutting off the blood supply.

NHS England's Professor Kenny, paediatric surgeon and national clinical director for children and young people, said: "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."

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The NHS has seen a rise in hospital admissions in older children as teenagers take part in the viral craze.

Louie and Jesse Houlden, two 18-month-old twins, underwent surgery to remove the magnets after ingesting them.

They had been bought for their older siblings.

Louie swallowed 23 which closed a loop in his intestines, forcing him to have emergency surgery at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Jesse swallowed four and needed keyhole surgery. Both boys have recovered.

Anyone who swallows the magnets should not wait for symptoms and instead visit get help from A&E immediately.

Natasha Crookes, of the British Toy & Hobby Association (BTHA), said: "The BTHA believes the law should change to classify these types of products as toys so they have to meet strict toy safety regulations.

"That would mean a change in design to ensure the magnets are covered by a casing too large to swallow."