TUESDAY, Oct. 12, 2021 (HealthDay News) — During the COVID-19 pandemic, the frequency of total foreign body ingestion (FBI) did not increase significantly, but the proportion of magnets and electronics FBI did increase significantly, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, held virtually from Oct. 8 to 11.

Elyse M. Geibel, M.D., from the Naval Medical Center San Diego Pediatrics, and colleagues examined the frequency of suspected FBI in children ages 0 to 17 years for 2017 to 2020 using the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database. The authors identified 2017 to 2019 and 2020 as pre-COVID-19 and COVID-19 periods, respectively; FBI frequencies were annualized based on the number of years in each period.

The researchers found that most FBI occurred in children aged 0 to 5 years. No significant decrease was seen in estimated total FBI between the pre-COVID-19 and COVID-19 periods (59,933 versus 54,926). There was a decrease observed in the estimated number of ingestions occurring in school from pre-COVID-19 to COVID-19 (2,678 to 1,189). From pre-COVID-19 to COVID-19, there was an increase in the estimated number of children requiring escalation of care due to FBI (6,923 to 8,041). Between the two time periods, the estimated frequency of magnet ingestions increased significantly (2,891 to 4,816), and a significant increase was seen in the number of estimated electronics FBIs (5,757 to 6,881).

“Button batteries and small-rare-earth-magnet-sets represent the most dangerous objects a child can ingest,” Patrick T. Reeves, M.D., from the Naval Medical Center at San Diego, said in a statement. “Due to their abilities to cause electromagnetic force discharge, these objects can tear through tissue, cause bleeding and even death.”

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