Button Battery Ingestion: What Parents Need to Know

Button Battery Ingestion: What Parents Need to Know

The risk of button battery ingestion by children has been in the news more recently. Just in time for the holidays, this gives us the opportunity to shine a light on a very important hazard. As kids get new gadgets that require these batteries, parents should be aware of this potentially fatal danger. 

Why Has Button Battery Ingestion Been in the News?

It’s true, there have been a number of news stories about button battery ingestion of late. Below, we outline two reasons this subject has been highlighted:

  • Increased Incidents During the COVID-19 Pandemic 

In a report released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) earlier this year, child injuries related to batteries rose significantly during the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, these cases rose a whopping 93% among children aged five through nine. Of those injuries, most involved ingestion, but some others also involved the battery being placed in the nose or ear. 

  • A Recent Recall Due to Battery Ingestion Concerns

Projector flashlights that were distributed as a promotional item in care packages to hospitals and healthcare facilities were recently recalled. After receiving two reports of children accessing the button cell batteries in the product, the Halo brand decided to recall them. Basically, the flashlights posed ingestion and choking risks. In fact, one of the two reported cases required surgery to remove a swallowed battery from the child’s body. The flashlights, which featured characters from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Avengers and ESPN, can be returned for a $5 gift card. For more info on this recall, visit the CPSC recall page.

Why is Button Battery Ingestion So Dangerous?

Surprisingly, emergency room visits due to button battery ingestion is quite an urgent matter. In addition, it is more common than one might expect. In fact, this injury is so much of a concern that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a Button Battery Task Force. According to the AAP, more than 2,500 children under age 18 consume these batteries every year in U.S.

The number of children with serious injury or death more than quadrupled in the five years between 2006 and 2010, compared to the five years prior. Then, add the stark increase that occurred at the start of the pandemic. This indicates a growing problem that parents need to be made aware of. 

Most commonly, injuries occur with 20mm diameter batteries, which get lodged in a small child's esophagus. So what is so serious about this situation? As it turns out, these batteries can cause severe tissue burns in as little as two hours. Of course, this can cause lifelong injuries, emergency surgery, or even death.

What Products Have These Batteries?

Unfortunately, these small flat batteries are in many household items. As such, they are easily accessible to children. For instance, items such as these may contain button batteries: digital thermometers, bathroom scales, flameless candles, watches, cell phones and hearing aids. It is best to keep these items, and any item that may contain these batteries, out of the reach of small children.

What Should You Do if a Child Ingests a Button Battery?

If your child swallows a battery, you’ll need to act quickly. Symptoms you may notice are wheezing, drooling, belly or chest pain, coughing, gagging or choking. Above all, your goal should be to get the child to an emergency room right away. 

If you can’t get to the emergency room on your own, call 9-1-1. The AAP also recommends calling the National Battery Ingestion Hotline for assistance at 1-800-498-8666.  It is a good idea to contact the hospital on your way. This will allow them to be ready and act fast once you arrive.  You can expect that an x-ray will be taken. If the button is in the esophagus, this is a greater concern. If it is in the stomach, the child will likely pass the battery on their own.

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