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Kids being accidentally poisoned by button batteries is rising, study finds

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Posted at 4:17 PM, Aug 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-29 17:43:44-04

(WXYZ) — A new study published in the journal Pediatrics found an increase in the number of young children swallowing button batteries.

Researchers found emergency room visits due to these accidental poisonings doubled from 2010 to 2019 compared with 1990 to 2009.

They’re called button batteries because of their size, but most people know them as lithium batteries, and they can be a real danger to children.

This new study found that every 1.25 hours, a child visits an emergency room because they swallowed one of these button batteries. Kids under the age of 5 are most at risk, especially young toddlers as they love to put things in their mouths. I know this firsthand as my youngest child is 2 years old.

Now, how dangerous are these batteries? Well, even though they’re small, they can get stuck in a child’s throat. What many parents don’t know is that salvia can trigger an electric current, and this causes a chemical reaction that can burn the esophagus pretty severely — sometimes so bad that it can create a perforation.

It can also cause vocal cord paralysis, erode into the child’s airway or into major blood vessels. If a child swallows the larger 20 mm size lithium cell battery and it’s not removed quickly, it can lead to death.

If a parent suspects their child has swallowed a battery, they should immediately call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline. Their number is 800-498-8666. The child should also be taken as soon as possible to the nearest emergency room.

Severe damage from a swallowed battery can happen within two hours. Having said that, never try to make your child vomit or attempt the Heimlich maneuver. This could increase the risk of injury. Also, never give them anything to eat or drink until you know it’s safe to do so.

Now, symptoms that a child swallowed a battery are noisy breathing, drooling, coughing, vomiting, chest pain, stomach pain or difficulty eating or drinking.

As for prevention, I can see how parents might think this is impossible since batteries are everywhere in today’s modern world, but here’s my advice:

Don’t let your child see you insert batteries. Kids are attracted to shiny objects.

Store new batteries where young kids can’t reach them. And don’t keep old batteries around.

Buy products that need a screwdriver to open the battery compartment. Or choose ones that are child-safe.

Now, batteries are not just swallowed; some kids put them in their noses or ears. While that may sound harmless, button batteries can cause perforation of the nasal septum or the eardrum, hearing loss or facial nerve paralysis. So, it’s always best to keep small batteries away from small children.