More children are swallowing button batteries


Button batteries are everywhere: remote controls, key chains, greeting cards, kitchen scales, tea lights, watches, toys, and hearing aids. And, increasingly, they are making their way into children’s bodies, causing discomfort, injury and, in some cases, death.

According to an article published in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics, emergency department visits for children who had swallowed a battery between 2010 and 2019 were more than double the visits between 1990 and 2009. Button batteries (small batteries disk-shaped batteries, also known as coin batteries) were involved in 85 percent of the cases in which the battery was described.

When such batteries lodge in the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach, they can cause serious damage in as little as two hours. While larger lithium batteries are of more concern because they are more likely to get stuck in a child’s esophagus, smaller non-lithium button cells can also cause serious injury, the team said, especially in younger children. 1 year old

Using data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the researchers calculated that there were 70,322 battery-related emergency room visits among children between 2010 and 2019. Ninety percent of the visits involved to children who had swallowed batteries (other injuries involved nose, ear, and mouth insertions). Most of the cases occurred among children 5 years old and younger, with the highest number involving children 1 year old.

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The increase in battery-related emergency room visits can likely be attributed to the increased prevalence of button batteries in homes, according to Mark Chandler, senior research associate at Safe Kids Worldwide, which conducted the study in cooperation with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Global Injury Research Collaborative, both located in Columbus, Ohio.

“In recent years, particularly in the last decade…devices commonly found in the home continue to get smaller, and that means the types of products that are powered by button batteries have become more plentiful,” he said. .

Chandler said parents are often unaware of how many devices in their home are powered by button cell batteries and the significant risk the batteries can pose to children. The researchers concluded that existing prevention efforts are not doing enough to reduce battery-related emergency room visits, calling for “regulatory efforts and the adoption of safer measures.” [button battery] industry designs to reduce or eliminate ingestion injuries in children.

On August 16, President Biden signed a bill, Reese’s Law (named for a child who died after ingesting a button cell), that will kick-start those regulatory efforts. The legislation directs the CPSC to develop new safety standards regarding coin or button batteries that will require more secure packaging, more visible warning labels, including on the batteries themselves, and safer compartments in the devices they hold. batteries, to prevent access by children 6 or younger. The agency has one year to issue the rules.

In the Pediatrics study, 12 percent of all swallowed battery cases resulted in hospitalization; ingestions specifically involving button batteries were twice as likely to result in hospitalization. Data did not include outcomes beyond hospitalization. According to the National Poisoning Data System, 3,467 ingestions of button batteries by children and adults were reported in 2019; of these, 207 resulted in moderate effects, 51 in major effects, and 3 in death. More than half of the cases involved children 6 years of age or younger.

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Varun Vohra, a clinical toxicologist and director of the Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center at Wayne State University School of Medicine, said that as of 2017, Michigan had seen a decline in button battery ingestion cases. There were 562 reported to the center between 2010 and 2017, compared to 723 between 2002 and 2009. But button batteries “are always a concern because they are so small and are found in so many different products,” he said.

Most cases don’t cause serious harm, Vohra said, and button batteries can pass through a child’s gastrointestinal system. But when a button cell battery lodges in a child’s esophagus, the consequences can be serious. Moisture in the mucous membranes can trigger an electrical current that causes a chemical reaction, damaging adjacent tissue (the current creates hydroxide, which causes alkaline burns).

“This can lead to serious injuries, including esophageal perforation, which can lead to significant downstream complications,” Vohra said. If x-ray images reveal a battery in the esophagus, it will need to be removed immediately, either by endoscopy or surgery, as serious injury to the esophagus can occur in as little as two hours. But the injury can progress even after the battery is removed, resulting in relatively rare complications, such as vocal cord paralysis or tracheoesophageal fistula, an abnormal connection between the trachea and the esophagus.

The latter is what happened to the boy named after Reese’s Law. Reese Hamsmith, an 18-month-old girl from Texas, had difficulty breathing in October 2020 that was initially diagnosed as croup. After the family realized that a button cell battery was missing from a broken remote control and that Reese had ingested it, she underwent surgery to remove the battery, but developed a difficult-to-treat fistula between her esophagus and the windpipe. After weeks of hospitalization and complications, she passed away on December 17, 2020.

Though grateful the bill passed, Trista Hamsmith, Reese’s mother, said truly protecting children will take more. “Ultimately, we need a safer battery,” she said.

Hamsmith, who founded the organization Reese’s Purpose to advocate for the protection of children from dangers such as button batteries, urges parents to “be very diligent and very aware of where these are in your homes, if you decide to have them in your homes.” ”. She and Chandler offered some safety tips for parents.

  • Do a sweep of your house; You can find button batteries in surprising places, including some kids’ electric toothbrushes. “They are literally designed to go into our children’s mouths and are powered by button batteries,” Hamsmith said.
  • Keep all devices powered by coin cell batteries and loose batteries out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Buy button cell batteries packaged in a way that reduces the chance of a child entering the package and ingesting them. For example, Hamsmith said, some battery packs need to be cut. He also pointed out that Duracell sells button batteries with a bitter coating designed to deter children from swallowing them.
  • Examine your coin cell-powered devices to make sure the battery compartment is as secure as possible. Devices that secure the cover with a screw are generally considered safer to have around children, Chandler said.

If your child swallows a battery or is near an open electronic device with a missing battery, Vohra offers this guide.

  • Call the Poison Help Line (800-222-2222), which will connect you with a local poison control center. You will be asked for and documented important information about the battery (including size and imprint code) and may direct you to the nearest emergency room for further evaluation. They will also want to know how old your child is, how long it has been since the battery was swallowed, and what symptoms the child is experiencing, to help set up a treatment plan.
  • Do not try to make your child vomit.
  • Take note of symptoms such as wheezing, drooling, vomiting, bleeding, abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing, chest discomfort, cough, choking or gagging, decreased appetite or refusal to eat, or fever.
  • Do not give your child anything to eat or drink.
  • If a magnet is swallowed along with the battery, this can cause more serious injuries. Call poison control and go to the nearest emergency department.
  • If it has been less than 12 hours since the battery was swallowed and your child is older than 12 months, you can give commercial honey (two teaspoons every 10 minutes for up to six doses) on the way to the emergency room. This will cover the battery and prevent hydroxide generation, which will delay burning of adjacent tissue. However, it is not a replacement for battery removal as this helps to slow down but does not eliminate the risk of tissue damage.
  • In cases where a child has a battery lodged in their nose or ear, which can also damage tissue, look for pain or discharge. Do not give nose or ear drops before a complete examination by a doctor; these fluids can potentially lead to worsening damage.

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