Button batteries, sometimes called coin or disc batteries, are the tiny round batteries often found in car keys, remotes, small flashlights, and kitchen scales. These tiny, candy-sized batteries cause devastating injuries when injected by children, often resulting in serious esophagus burns or even death.
In recent years, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned that injuries from these batteries are on the rise. Though the number of incidents of accidental swallowing has not increased, there has been an increase in the severity of the injuries of accidental swallowings. The C.S.P.C. hypothesizes that the increase in severe injuries is a result of the more frequent use of these batteries in devices.
The National Capital Poison Center estimates that in recent years, these small batteries have caused almost 200 severe burn injuries and almost 40 deaths of young children. Most recently a toddler in Oklahoma died as the result of complications from an accidental button battery swallowing.
When ingested and left in the body for more than 2 hours, button batteries create an electric current that causes sodium hydroxide to form, causing severe burns to the esophagus and surrounding major blood vessels. But the batteries are so tiny and easy to swallow that parents are often unaware their child has ingested one until serious symptoms begin. Children can also be poisoned by the lithium inside the battery if the battery is crushed. Button or coin batteries larger than 20mm pose the most danger.
Follow these tips to prevent injuries from accidental swallowings of button batteries:
- Do not leave loose batteries around the house. Keep spare batteries in enclosed, childproof containers.
- Check all devices that use small batteries and secure the backs so a child cannot open the battery compartment and remove the batteries.
- Alert family members and friends who use devices with button batteries (including hearing aids) and talk to them about how to keep the small batteries away from children
- Make sure small batteries are clearly marked. Do not leave these batteries near pills, snacks, or any type of food product that can cause confusion or accidental ingestion.
- Know the symptoms. Adults are often unaware that a child has ingested a button battery until the child begins to experience serious symptoms. But the symptoms of an accidental ingestion can be confusing and unremarkable if the adult does not know the cause. Symptoms can include stomachache, fever, irritability, throat pain, and vomiting. Not all children will experience symptoms.
If a battery is accidentally ingested, seek immediate treatment. Go to the closest emergency room. You can also call a medical hotline like The National Battery Ingestion Hotline (202) 625-3333, or the Poison Center (800) 222-1222. Do not wait to see a doctor who can remove the battery.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury involving a button battery, call The Walker Morgan Law Firm at (803) 359-6194 to schedule a free consultation.