OCT 31, 2017 3:46 PM PDT

PSA: Don't Stick Magnets Up Your Nose

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Magnets are the bright white disks. | Image Credit: NEJM

An 11-year-old boy recently learned a painful life lesson to never stick magnets up his nose again.

Having gotten a hold of a set of button magnets, the boy was curious to see if the magnets would work when put in each of his nostrils. Lo and behold, the magnet trick worked even when separated by the nasal septum. It worked too well, in fact. Any shred of amazement he may have felt quickly devolved into pain and terror when he realized the magnets were stuck.  

According to the boy’s case report, he tried for six hours to remove them on his own. Bloodied and terrified, he was brought to the emergency room where an X-ray revealed the nasal septum perfectly pinched by the two disk-shaped magnets.

Even though the boy’s airway wasn’t an immediate issue, doctors were concerned the pull of the magnets could lead cause a perforation of the nasal septum.

Despite more experienced hands, emergency doctors were unsuccessful. "Attempts to remove the magnets in the emergency department were unsuccessful because of intense adherence," per the report.

Because physically prying the magnets apart didn’t work, doctors resorted to a different magnet trick. That is, in the operation room and under anesthesia, doctors used two stronger magnets to break apart the ones that were stuck. When the stronger magnets were positioned on the outside of the boy’s nostrils, it pulled the stuck magnets away from the septum. Then doctors could then slide the magnets to the outside of the nose.

After the procedure, the boy’s nose showed some signs of damage to the septal cartilage. The wounds were treated with adhesion barriers and splints.

Fortunately, the boy did not suffer permanent damages from this magnet incidence. At his 6-month checkup, the wound seemed to have healed properly.

The incident teaches an important life lesson: Magnets can be dangerous even when they’re not swallowed. Simply put, magnets just don’t belong in any bodily orifices.

Additional sources: Live Science

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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