Injuries due to the ingestion of button batteries, the small disk-shaped batteries found in many small electronic devices and toys, are increasing. The severity of injuries due to swallowing batteries can range from nothing significant to death, and that is a great cause for concern for parents and caregivers of children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, about 40,000 children under the age of 13 were treated for ingesting batteries from 1997 to 2010, some resulting in death.
As technology advances and electronic devices become smaller and smaller, the use of button batteries increases. These small batteries are found in many products, such as: children’s toys, hearing aids, watches, singing greeting cards, remote controls, bathroom scales, flashing jewelry and toys, key fobs, calculators, digital thermometers, flashlights, and many other household items. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has regulations regarding the accessibility of batteries in toys intended for children under 12, but that doesn’t cover the other hundreds of items, not intended for children, that use button batteries. That is where added risk lies.
The Risks of Battery Ingestion
When a button battery is swallowed, or inhaled through the nose, it can become lodged in the esophagus. While stuck, an electrical current can form around the battery causing chemical burns, hemorrhaging, or tearing of the surrounding tissue. These injuries can quickly become life-threatening if not immediately diagnosed and treated. However, because the symptoms of battery ingestion are vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and difficulty breathing and swallowing, which could be symptoms of many illnesses, an accurate diagnosis may be elusive unless the child was seen swallowing the battery. Further testing, including an x-ray must be done in order to see if there is a battery lodged somewhere in the child’s body, and it must be removed as quickly as possible.
Preventative Measures to Protect Your Child
The prevention of a child’s exposure to button batteries requires diligence on the part of parents and caregivers. How many times have you seen a busy mother hand her keys to a fussy toddler to occupy him or her? There most likely is a key-less remote for a car on her keychain. There might also be a small flashlight for using her keys at night. Both of those items are likely to have button batteries, and both of those items are likely to go into a curious toddler’s mouth. Worn or cracked plastic in either of them can easily expose the child to the battery.
There are precautions you can take to limit your child’s risk to battery ingestion. Nationwide Children’s Hospital recommends the following:
- Look for every battery-powered device in and around your home and where your children stay. Make sure that the battery is secured, only accessible using a tool, such as a screwdriver. If this is not an option, secure battery compartments on toys and gadgets with duct tape, or keep electronic devices well out of the sight and reach of children.
- Keep loose batteries out of the sight and reach of children and store them in a locked cabinet or container.
- Dispose of used batteries safely and out of the reach of children.
- Watch children carefully while they are using devices that contain batteries.
- Share this information with caregivers, friends, family members and sitters. It only takes a minute and it could save a life.
What if the Worst Happens?
If you suspect your child has swallowed or inhaled a button battery, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Take your child to the nearest emergency room or call 911. You can also call the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222, or the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333.
If your child has been injured by battery ingestion, you should also seek legal advice. At Ross Feller Casey our team of nationally recognized attorneys can determine if you have a case and how to proceed. All cases are handled on a contingency basis, so there will never be a cost to you unless there is a financial recovery. Please contact us for a free consultation and review of your case.