Portland, Ore., 3-Year-old Ingests 37 Magnets

PHOTO: A 3-year-old girl continues to recover in the hospital Friday after accidentally swallowing 37 high-powered rare earth Buckyball magnets.
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An Oregon 3-year-old is recovering after she ingested 37 Buckyball earth magnets.

Oregon's KPTV originally reported that Payton Bushnell had complained to her parents about stomach pain. At first, Aaron and Kelli Bushnell thought their child simply had a stomachache, but her symptoms continued, and an X-ray at the hospital finally revealed a circular grouping of magnets in her stomach.

The magnets reportedly snapped Payton's intestines together, punched one hole in her stomach and three in her intestine, according to KPTV. Payton's parents say she may have mistaken the small metallic balls as edible toppings they often use to decorate cupcakes.

Physicians at Children's Hospital in Portland rushed Payton into surgery and she is now making a full recovery.

The Bushnells did not immediately return ABC News' requests for comment.

"If we had any idea what those magnets could have done to our daughter's intestines I would have never had them in our house, " Kelli Bushnell told KPTV.

People tend to experience flu-like symptoms within a couple days of ingesting the magnets.

The problem with children and teenagers accidentally ingesting high-powered magnets has been on the rise in recent years, said Kim Dulic, a spokesperson for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And most of the magnets are so small that it's difficult to notice if one or two go missing in a sofa or on the floor.

"The popularity of these products are growing, and it's resulting in an increasing amount of incidents," said Dulic.

One incident of ingesting magnets was reported in 2009, seven in 2010 and 14 through October 2011. The ages of these cases ranged from 18 months to 15 years old, and 11 required surgical removal of the magnets.

"We want parents to be aware of the danger associated with these innocent-looking magnets," CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said at the time the report was released. "The potential for serious injury and death if multiple magnets are swallowed demands that parents and medical professionals be aware of this hidden hazard and know how to treat a child in distress."

In response to the increasing number of accidental ingestions, Craig Zucker, CEO of Maxfield and Oberton, the manufacturer of Buckyballs, said, "High-powered magnets, such as Buckyballs, are products for adult use only and should be kept away from all children."

And since magnetic tongue rings and lip piercings in which two high-powered magnets sit on both sides of the lip or tongue have also become more popular in recent years, teenagers are also at particular risk, the CPSC warns.

"We've found that a lot of teens are getting these at school, so parents should be sure to notify their teens as to what's happening with these products," said Dulic. "They can just be really dangerous."

Button-size batteries, found in remote controls, toys, calculators and bathroom scales, have also become a hot spot of contention because of the increasing number of accidental ingestions.

"The difference between magnets and these batteries is that you can see symptoms within two hours of swallowing them," said Dulic. "It burns the esophagus and it can start soon after.

"We want to continue to get the message out about these products and the dangers associated with them," said Dulic. "If parents believe their child has swallowed magnets, they should bring them to the doctor immediately."

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