Tiny batteries send more children to ER, report says

(CNN) – A growing number of small children are eating small lithium batteries, also called “button” batteries, which power many of our consumer devices, with potentially serious consequences, even death, according to a new report.

Despite public information campaigns warning parents of the dangers, about 7,032 emergency room visits were made for battery-related injuries from 2010 to 2019, more than double the number of visits from 1990 to 2009, according to the study published on Monday. in the journal Pediatrics.

That’s an average of one battery-related emergency visit every 1.25 hours among children under 18, according to the report. Children under 5 were most at risk, the report notes, especially toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2, who often put things they find in their mouths.

Button batteries were responsible for injuries in more than 87% of visits in which the type of battery could be determined, according to the study.

Even after being removed from the device they are powering, lithium button cells still carry high current. When batteries get stuck in a child’s throat, the saliva can interact with the current, causing “a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours, creating a perforation in the esophagus, vocal cord paralysis or even erosion in the airway (trachea) or major blood vessels,” the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia warned.

That’s what happened in 2010 to 1-year-old Emmett Rauch, who ate a button cell battery that fell out of a DVD player remote, according to his parents, Karla and Michael Rauch.

“The battery literally burned a hole in his esophagus into his trachea (airway) allowing bile from his stomach to flow back into his lungs,” the couple shared on Emmett’s Fight Foundation, the nonprofit foundation’s website. nonprofit they started to educate other parents about the dangers. button batteries.

The drums also burned Emmett’s vocal cord nerves, the Raunchs said. To deal with complications from his injuries, Emmett underwent six surgeries over five years, including replacing his entire esophagus using part of his intestine.

“As a mother, I replay the morning we noticed Emmett’s disease over and over in my mind. How did I not know? If I only paid attention to the type of batteries needed for the remotes! Karla Rauch wrote on a blog for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Batteries are everywhere

Button batteries are everywhere in modern homes, including some places you might not think of, like flashing or animated ornaments, clip-on reading lights, and singing greeting cards.

Other common items containing lithium batteries are calculators, digital thermometers, flameless candles, flashing jewelry, handheld games and toys, hearing aids, laser pointers, light up bouncy balls, penlights, mini remotes, step counters and sports trackers, talk and sing. books and, of course, car key fobs and smart watches, according to the National Poison Control Center.

The new study analyzed data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which tracks emergency room visits to more than 100 hospitals in the United States.

The analysis revealed that battery ingestion accounted for the majority (90%) of these battery-related emergency department visits, followed by putting batteries in the nose (5.7%), ears (2, 5%) and the mouth without swallowing (1.8%).

Although not as serious as ingestion, lithium batteries stuck in an ear or nose can cause serious injury, such as perforation of the nasal septum or eardrum, hearing loss, or paralysis of the facial nerve, according to the report.

What should parents do?

Prevention is essential. Do not insert or change batteries in front of young children – shiny objects are attractive. Dispose of expired batteries immediately and safely and store spare batteries out of the reach of children, experts recommend.

“Try to choose products with battery compartments that only open with a screwdriver or special tool, or have a child-resistant closure. At a minimum, use strong tape to hold the compartment tightly closed against small hands,” Connecticut Children’s Hospital advised.

Be especially careful with batteries as large as a penny or more, recommends the National Poison Control Center.

“The 20 mm diameter lithium battery is one of the most serious problems when swallowed. These problem cells are recognizable by their imprint (engraved numbers and letters) and often carry one of these 3 codes: CR2032, CR2025, CR2016. If swallowed and not removed quickly, these larger button cell batteries can cause death – or burn a hole in your child’s esophagus,” the center noted.

Always supervise children who play with a toy or device that contains a button cell battery and educate older children about the dangers so they can help you.

What if you think your child has swallowed a battery or stuck one in their nose or ear?

“Call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline immediately at 800-498-8666. Prompt action is essential. Do not wait for symptoms to develop,” the NPCC advised.

Signs of swallowing can make it look like the child has swallowed a coin, so beware, experts said. Typical behavior may include wheezing, drooling, coughing, vomiting, chest discomfort, refusing to eat, or gagging when trying to drink or eat. But for some children, like Emmett Rauch, it can take days before symptoms are severe enough to be noticed.

“It is also important to know if a magnet has been co-ingested with the battery, as this could potentially cause further injury. X-rays of the child’s entire neck, esophagus, and abdomen are usually needed,” according to Texas Children’s Hospital.

If you suspect ingestion, don’t induce vomiting, advises Texas Children.

Don’t give your child anything to eat or drink until an X-ray shows the battery has moved past the esophagus, the National Poison Control Center noted.

“Batteries stuck in the esophagus should be removed as quickly as possible as severe damage can occur in just 2 hours. Batteries in the nose or ear should also be removed immediately to avoid permanent damage,” advised the center.

Amanda J. Marsh