Button Batteries are a Serious Health Risk to Small Children
Kids put things in their mouths for a variety of reasons. For starters, an infant’s mouth has more nerve endings than any other part of the body. The result? When a baby wants to know what something really feels like, they’ll stick it in their mouths. Children carry this need to explore with their mouths well into their second year. Childhood is a time when the world is new and everything deserves exploring. While this natural curiosity is good and should be encouraged, parents always have to be mindful of the dangers that exist within their child’s reach. Threats to your child’s safety can come in many shapes and sizes. As electronics get smaller, the batteries used to power them have also become choking hazards. You might not know it, but something as small as a button battery can actually cause serious injury and even death in small children.
What are button batteries?
Button batteries, sometimes called watch batteries, are small circular, cylinder single cell batteries cylinder. They are found in small electronics, such as:
- Remote controls
- Key fobs
- Holiday ornaments
- Hearing aids
- Bathroom scales
- Singing greeting cards
- Holiday ornaments
- Electronic jewelry
- Games and toys
According to Time, 60% of children get these batteries directly from a product such as a toy or game. An additional 30% of children young than six gain access to them by picking up loose batteries lying around.
Why are button batteries dangerous?
Button batteries are of similar size or smaller than pennies. However, they can cause serious damage that may lead to death. There are several reasons that these batteries should cause concern for parents.
- Size. Button batteries are smaller than coins. Which means that they are the perfect size to lodge in a child’s windpipe. Depending on the size, they may be able to pass through the body.
- Design. By design, these batteries are extremely slim and where the current flows in and out are extremely close. As a result, a high current passes quickly through the body’s salty tissue. It is the electrical current that generates heat that can cause serious burns within two hours of swallowing.
- Easily ingested. A child can swallow a button battery without choking or coughing. This means there may not be signs that your child ingested a battery without you seeing it or until it causes more severe symptoms.
- Dangerous with little to no charge. Even with little to no charge, lithium batteries can cause damage. This is why it is so important to properly dispose of these batteries once they no longer work.
- Varied symptoms. A child who swallows a batter might be unlikely to tell anyone. For example, young children may not remember doing it, or they may be nonverbal. Older kids, on the other hand, are often reluctant to say anything for fear of getting in trouble.
Batteries cause caustic injuries. This means when they are ingested they can burn the esophagus and gastric perforation. Children may experience symptoms that resemble a cold and a parent may waive off the symptoms.
What damages do button batteries cause?
The National Capital Poison Center has issued a warning because the number of button battery injuries is on the rise. Each year, more than 3,500 people of all ages swallow button batteries. It may seem strange the National Capital Poison Center would issue a warning about button batteries, but it’s important to remember that batteries can for alkaline chemicals and lead to tissue burns.
When a button battery is ingested, it can get stuck in the throat. Once inside the body, saliva can trigger an electrical current that causes a chemical reaction which forms hydroxide. This chemical can burn the esophagus. Once this occurs, damage can continue even after the battery is removed.
These batteries can burn through tissue in as a little as two hours, cause sing severe injury or death. It is imperative that parents know what to do if their child ingests a button battery.
20 mm diameter lithium cell batteries
Button batteries come in all sizes. Unfortunately, while these batteries pack twice the voltage of older batteries, they are also responsible for causing the most problems when swallowed. These batteries are a little larger than a penny. Among all button batteries, 20 mm diameter lithium cell batteries are leading battery swallowed by young children. They are responsible for severe internal burns, not by leaking fluid like traditional batteries, but by generating an external current that causes the battery to release hydroxide from its flat end.
What should I do if my child ingests a battery?
Swift medical intervention is an extremely important step when parents find an opened remote control or a missing battery that may have been swallowed by an infant or young child. If parents suspect their child has ingested a button battery, they should seek immediate medical attention for their child.
Once in the care of medical professionals, the staff will likely obtain an x-ray. This is to ensure that the battery has gone through the esophagus and into the stomach. If the battery is lodged in the throat, medical personnel will remove it immediately. However, if the battery is found to have moved past the esophagus, then they will be allowed to pass by themselves.
If medical staff is unable to find the battery and send your child home, keep an eye on the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Continuous vomitting
- Blood in vomit or stools
Do not induce vomiting if your child has swallowed a battery. Vomiting can lead to an increase in the corrosive damage to the esophagus and gastrointestinal system. In addition, inducing vomiting can cause the battery to block the airway and lead to choking.
Tips For Protecting Your Children
Any kind of battery can be swallowed, but button batteries are causing an increase in the number of debilitating and fatal battery ingestions. These fatalities stem from severe esophageal or airway burns. Even when symptoms are not present, there can be other complications. To protect your young ones, you should:
- Store all spare batteries in safe places, where children will not be able to access.
- Ensure all household devices that contain button batteries are secured shut.
- Use tape to secure compartments shut if possible.
- Purchase products that require a screwdriver or other tool to open the battery compartment.