Experts Warn of Harm When Children Swallow Batteries

Emergency room visits doubled over the decade before
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2022 6:40 PM CDT
Experts Warn of Harm When Children Swallow Batteries
   (Getty/Lemon_tm)

(Newser) – Electronic devices around the house seem to be multiplying, so it stands to reason that more small batteries—health threats when swallowed by children—are being used to power them. "If I only paid attention to the kind of batteries the remote controls required!" one woman wrote on a hospital blog after her son's ordeal. The 1-year-old ate a button battery that fell out of a DVD player remote. It burned a hole through his esophagus, and he needed six surgeries, CNN reports. But the batteries aren't just in remotes or prominent devices: They can be found in blinking ornaments and singing greeting cards.

Children were taken to emergency rooms twice as often from 2010 to 2019 with battery poisoning as in the decade before, a new study has found. For children under 18, that works out to one battery-related emergency visit every 1.25 hours, said the report, which was published Monday in Pediatrics. Toddlers, who often put objects they find in their mouths, are the biggest worry. Lithium button batteries still have a current after falling out of a device, which can interact with saliva if a battery gets stuck in a child's throat. That leads to "a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours," Children's Hospital of Philadelphia warned.

Experts recommend using devices whose battery compartment won't open without a screwdriver or special tool. The National Poison Control Center advises avoiding batteries the size of a penny or bigger, especially common ones marked CR2032, CR2025, or CR2016, if children are in the house. "If swallowed and not removed promptly, these larger button batteries can cause death," the center said. If a child may have swallowed a battery, experts say not to wait to see symptoms: "Call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 800-498-8666 immediately." (Read more lithium ion batteries stories.)

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