A child is taken to the emergency room approximately every three hours because they swallowed a button battery. Button batteries are extremely dangerous if ingested, and you only have about two hours to get your child to the hospital before they are at risk for major injury or even death.
“The problem is that button batteries, which are flat and round, are used to power an incredible number of things that we all have in our homes,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.
Button batteries can be found in a long list of devices, including:
- Remote controls
- Garage door openers
- Keyless entry fobs
- Bathroom scales
- Hand held video games
- Digital thermometers
- Hearing aids
- Holiday ornaments
- Musical greeting cards
Why are button batteries so dangerous?
When swallowed, a button battery reacts with saliva and creates a solution that dissolves tissue, and it can cause severe damage to the esophagus, airway, vocal cords and major blood vessels. Unfortunately, the size and shape of button batteries are appealing to small children.
“They like shiny things and all kids are really oral,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “For a lot of children, everything goes in their mouth and it can be an unwitnessed event.”
To protect kids from ingesting button batteries, Dr. Bradshaw suggests:
- Store them out of children’s reach.
- Dispose of old batteries safely. A button battery that is no longer able to power a device still has a charge, and it can harm a child if it gets lodged in their ears, nose or throat.
- Apply tape to the battery compartments of devices to make it hard for little fingers to get at the battery inside.
“I strongly recommend using duct tape, not just scotch tape, because that’s pretty easy to get off. Tape all the places on a device where the batteries are plugged into.”
Some children who ingest a button battery have no noticeable signs or symptoms, while others may experience pain, coughing, vomiting, irritability, fever or increased heart rate. If you think your child swallowed a battery, seek medical attention immediately. The button battery should be removed by a team of specialized anesthesiologists and endoscopists who are experienced in removing foreign objects.
Giving your child honey may help
The National Poison Control Centers recommends giving a child two teaspoons of honey every ten minutes, up to six doses, to provide a protective barrier between a swallowed battery and the body’s tissue, until the battery is removed. However, do not give your child honey if it delays getting to the emergency room. Honey is not recommended for children under age 1, due to the risk of botulism.