If you aren’t convinced that button batteries are a huge danger to kids, this video might change your mind
A new study has found that the number of ER visits parents are making with kids who have swallowed small objects has nearly doubled in the past 25 years, and one of the big culprits is lithium button batteries – small, coin-shaped batteries that can be found in a surprising bevy of household trinkets, from electronics, to light-up jewelry, to greeting cards, to toys.
Why are they so dangerous? One doctor, Mike Rubin, recently conducted a quick experiment to show the damage one battery can do in a short amount of time and posted the disturbing results on Twitter.
Swallowed button batteries are a medical emergency! This is an example the tissue damage that occurs in 3 hours.#FOAMed #MedEd #SoMeDocs #physician #MedTwitter #pediatrics #EmergencyMedicine pic.twitter.com/BATdAKZOES
— Dr. Mike Rubin (@stopioid) April 4, 2019
“Swallowed button batteries are a medical emergency,” he wrote. “This is an example [of] the tissue damage that occurs in 3 hours.”
While a button battery that makes it all the way into the stomach usually passes through the rest of the digestive system without a problem, batteries that become lodged in the esophagus – or lodged in an ear or the nose – can have devastating effects in a few hours, or over a serious of days, weeks, or months if not discovered.
Dozens of children die from ingesting button batteries each year, and the stories are all frighteningly similar. In the case of 2-year-old Brianna Florer, her parents never discovered when she found and swallowed the battery, and only realized there was an issue when she began to vomit blood just after Christmas. Doctors believe battery acid burned a hole from her esophagus all the way to her heart.
A radiologist replied to the thread sharing exactly what a button battery looks like on an x-ray in comparison to a coin, which is much less dangerous.
This seems a good time to remind everyone what a button battery looks like on a x-ray— Baruch Videan (@bozzvid) April 8, 2019
A: Button battery.
Note the double edge or halo appearance.
Smooth uniform density all the way across#FOAMed #FOAMrad #awareness #medicalemergency #paediatrics pic.twitter.com/4kWn7toqRQ
Poison Control warns that if these batteries are ingested, the child needs immediate medical attention, as they could do serious harm in a very short amount of time. They add that 20 mm, 3-volt lithium coin cells are the most dangerous button battery because of their size (about the same as a nickel) and their power.
Poison control also has a long list of places button batteries can hide, including hearing aids, remote controls, keyless entry fobs, garage door openers, scales, handheld games, and more. Anything electronic and small may harbor these batteries.
Another thing you should know? If your kid swallows a battery, get them to the ER, but also feed them honey. The honey can coat the battery and protect the flesh around it while doctors work to solve the issue. Just remember: honey is not a long-term solution, and any kid who swallows a battery should get to a medical professional immediately.
Currently, manufacturers are looking for ways to make button batteries safer, including coating them in bright blue dye that would stain the mouth of any kid who swallowed one. But until then, it’s up to you to keep your kids safe.
A few pointers? Educate yourself about which devices in your home have button batteries, and toss things that aren’t essential (like hearing aids are, cheap dollar store toys or singing greeting cards are not) or that don’t have secure compartments. Be extremely careful about storing spare batteries and disposing of old batteries safely and immediately. And, as soon as your kid is old enough, make sure they know the dangers of the objects as well.
Most of all, remember: if something is swallowed, prompt action is critical. As the video shows, damage begins more quickly than you’d imagine.