Olivia Fay, 7, with her parents Alex and Bec Fay after Olivia swallowed 5 magnetic balls. Picture: Shae Beplate.
Olivia Fay, 7, with her parents Alex and Bec Fay after Olivia swallowed 5 magnetic balls. Picture: Shae Beplate.

WARNING: The toy you should not be buying your kids

PARENTS are being warned about the dangers of a popular toy banned in Australia after a Townsville toddler swallowed five tiny magnetic balls.

Over the Christmas and New Year period, two youngsters were rushed to Townsville University Hospital for swallowing the magnetic balls - which have the potential to severely injure and kill children.

TUH public health director Dr Steven Donohue was outraged the banned toy was still available online.

"Several years ago, this category of magnetic construction balls were completely banned by the ACCC for Australia," Dr Donohue said.

"They are not sold in toy shops for a reason, and I can't believe the law is being ignored with online toy sales."

When parents-of-three Bec and Alex Fay bought the magnetic toy off eBay as a Christmas present for seven-year-old daughter Olivia, they had no idea the balls were banned in Australia.

 

Olivia Fay, 7, with examples of the magnetic balls she accidentally swallowed. Picture: Shae Beplate.
Olivia Fay, 7, with examples of the magnetic balls she accidentally swallowed. Picture: Shae Beplate.

 

Playing with her Christmas present, Olivia put five of the small magnetic balls in her mouth to manipulate them into a shape but as she leaned back in her bed, it all went wrong.

"I was tucking Olivia into bed and I noticed upon pulling her sheet back, she had some magnetic balls on her bed," Mr Fay said.

"I took them out of the bed … put them on the bedside table, kissed her goodnight and went to get Bec to kiss her goodnight.

"Then, Olivia called out to me and said 'Daddy, I've swallowed the balls'."

The parents were a little panicked, but still unaware of how serious the situation could be.

"I didn't think there was much risk of her choking because she is past that age," Mr Fay said. "Then a quick Google search showed us that swallowing magnetic balls is actually pretty dangerous."

 

X-ray of Olivia Fay, 7, after swallowing 3 magnetic balls. Picture: Shae Beplate.
X-ray of Olivia Fay, 7, after swallowing 3 magnetic balls. Picture: Shae Beplate.

 

X-ray of Olivia Fay, 7, after swallowing 3 magnetic balls. Picture: Shae Beplate.
X-ray of Olivia Fay, 7, after swallowing 3 magnetic balls. Picture: Shae Beplate.

The magnetic balls are known to cause damage to a person's insides when swallowed and move back together, potentially causing perforations or peritonitis in the small intestine or stomach.

"We were a little bit less concerned because she swallowed them all together," Mr Fay said.

The parents called 13 HEALTH and were urged to take Olivia to emergency immediately.

Mrs Fay said when they arrived at the hospital, they began to panic more as doctors took the situation very seriously and rushed their little girl through to get an x-ray.

"(Olivia) was becoming a little anxious, that is where the tummy pain came from," she said.

After two nights and three days, Olivia was sent home where she finally passed the magnetic balls.

Mrs Fay warned parents to do more research when buying their children gifts online.

"We're pretty attentive … they're not given freedom of everything, but I had no idea, we had no idea," she said.

"Knowing what we do now, obviously you can't buy them within Australia, but stopping them from coming into the country.

"I don't want to see another family go through this."

 

Doctor Steven Donohue, Director Townsville Public Health Unit talks on the dangers of buying magnetic balls online. Picture: Shae Beplate.
Doctor Steven Donohue, Director Townsville Public Health Unit talks on the dangers of buying magnetic balls online. Picture: Shae Beplate.

 

Dr Donohue said the medical risk with the toys was very high.

"These magnets are so strong they can pinch together across different layers of intestine or stomach and erode the tissue," he said.

"It can be life threatening. Sometimes they have to operate to get the balls out.

"Fortunately in this case, we had a toddler where more than 100 were removed through an endoscope … and Olivia, who only swallowed five all at once.

"Because they were all very firmly stuck together, we decided we could wait and just do further X-rays to prove that had come through safely."



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