The Dangers of Button Batteries

A new danger for small children has emerged in the past five years: swallowing coin-sized lithium batteries. These batteries can become lodged somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract and they cause an electrical current setting up a hydrolysis reaction that burns tissue. In the past six years, 80 permanent injuries and 11 deaths in children were caused by battery ingestion. The number of serious injuries and deaths have quadrupled in the past five years, due to the increase in use of these batteries. In 2010 alone, there were 3,400 battery swallowing incidents resulting in 19 serious injuries.

Where do kids find these batteries?

The most common location is in mini remote control devices. But these batteries are found in many other items as well, such as musical greeting cards, bathroom scales, children’s books with sound, watches, flameless candles and key fobs. Many of these items are left where they are easily accessible to children.

What happens if a child ingests a battery?

It takes as little as two hours after ingestion to cause severe burns, and once the burning has started, damage can continue even after the battery has been removed. The scary part is that if you do not see your child swallow the battery, it may not be obvious at first that anything is wrong. Kids can still breathe and the symptoms—coughing, drooling and discomfort—may seem like those of other minor child ailments.

If you suspect that your child has swallowed a battery

  • Go to the emergency room immediately.
  • If possible, provide the medical team with the identification number from the battery, or take the device with you.
  • Do not let the child eat or drink until a chest X-Ray has been taken.
  • Do not induce vomiting.
  • Ask the emergency staff to contact the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at (202) 425-3333 for additional treatment information.

Prevention is the key!

  • SEARCH your home and any place your child goes for gadgets that may contain lithium batteries.
  • SECURE coin lithium battery-controlled devices out of sight and reach of children and keep loose batteries locked away.
  • SHARE this life-saving information with caregivers, family members, friends and sitters.

For more information on the dangers of coin lithium batteries, visit Safe Kids.

By Betty and Doniese

Family Life Instructors at Avera McKennan

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