700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Reusable Water Balloons: Parents Beware!

Aug 09, 2023
child filling up water balloons

Have you gotten your hands on this summer’s hot new outside toy – reusable water balloons? Sure, they’re easier on your fingers and more environmentally friendly, but did you know the magnets used to keep them closed pose a safety issue?

Reusable water balloons are typically made of flexible silicone with a hard ring around the opening on both sides. The ring has magnets in it to keep it closed and keep the water in and allow the balloons to easily open upon impact. In certain designs and in certain conditions, the materials on the balloon may wear down and the magnets can fall out. Or a curious child or animal can chew or play with them enough for the magnets to come out. If this happens, the magnets and other materials need to be thrown away immediately to prevent injury.

Unfortunately, magnets getting dislodged from toys and being available to be ingested (swallowed) or inserted (older kids try to imitate nose, tongue, lip, or cheek piercings) has been a problem since high-powered magnets started being used in children’s toys in the early 2000s. While the tiny high-powered magnets that are easily available in desk toys (intended for adults) are the worst culprits, the same types of magnets are also inside some jewelry and children’s toys.

Emergency department physicians have seen children who have high-powered magnets lodged within their bodies. While foreign body ingestions like coins, toys, or jewelry have been a regular occurrence for years, caring for a patient who has ingested or inserted high-powered magnets is especially concerning. The magnets are so strong that if more than one is swallowed, they can attract to each other across tissue, cutting off blood supply to the bowel and causing blockages, tissue injury, severe infection, and even death.

If you have reusable water balloons, inspect them before and after using them and throw them away at the first sign they’re starting to fall apart. If you think a child has swallowed a magnet, reach out to your child’s doctor or call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Since these items are particularly dangerous, swallowing them could mean a trip to the hospital.

Contact the CPSC if you think you have an unsafe product: www.SaferProducts.gov or call CPSC’s toll-free hotline: 800-638-2772.

Learn about symptoms and what to do if you think your child has swallowed high-powered magnets.

Featured Expert

Laura Dattner
Laura Dattner, MA
Center for Injury Research and Policy

Laura Dattner is a research writer in the Center for Injury Research and Policy. With both a health communications and public health background, she works to translate pediatric injury research into meaningful, accurate messages which motivate the public to make positive behavior changes.

Leah Middelberg
Leah Middelberg, MD
Emergency Medicine

Leah Middelberg, MD is part of the physician team of Emergency Medicine and Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship faculty at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.