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Children's Health and Safety

Here’s How Little Button Batteries Can Cause Big Harm

button batteries
button batteries
Pamela Fuselli – President and CEO, Parachute

Pamela Fuselli

President and CEO, Parachute

Young children like to explore their environments with their senses. Touching and putting objectives in their mouths is one way to learn but this can be hazardous to their health.

Button batteries are those small circular batteries that can be mistaken by children for candy. They’re found in more and more products such as watches, computer games, greeting cards, remote controls, car key fobs, and hearing aids. These little batteries can cause very severe injuries and even death when they are swallowed. Significant medical issues are also seen when children put button batteries in their ears and noses.

You wouldn’t think that these small batteries could cause so much harm. But they do, especially if they get stuck, which most commonly occurs in the esophagus, as the battery can burn or destroy tissue. Children may or may not have symptoms after swallowing a button battery, and injuries can still happen if the battery has expired, is “dead” or even after the battery is removed from the child’s mouth, esophagus, or stomach. There is a short window of time to get help as serious injury can happen in as little as two hours.

If you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery, take them to emergency immediately. Don’t waste time; every minute is important! While getting to the Emergency Department give your child honey to swallow (10 ml = 2 teaspoons) every 10 minutes for up to six doses. Doctors recommend honey because it coats the battery and helps to reduce the damage the battery can cause.

The good news is that there are steps to take to prevent injuries from button batteries.

Steps to take to prevent injuries from button batteries:

• Get down to your child’s level and see their world from their vantage point. What would attract them? What can they reach?

• Store all batteries up high and locked, out of reach and sight. This applies when you are disposing of batteries too.

• When you buy products, look for ones with secure battery compartments that aren’t easily accessed, for example, products that come with screws to seal the battery compartments. You can put tape over the battery compartment as an additional barrier.

• Check product battery compartments periodically to ensure they remain secure and not easily opened.

• Supervise children while they play and/or use toys that have button batteries. For other products such as greeting cards that play music or key fobs, keep them up high so children don’t play with them.

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