Injury by Button Battery – don’t put them in there!

Batteries of all sorts can commonly cause injury, but there’s an increasing issue with button batteries causing injury. How big is the problem? One child visits ER every 3 hours, according to a recent study (across North America).

Injury? Accident? What’s the problem?

Button batteries are increasingly found in all kinds of gadgets from remote controls to kids toys. With the increased use of button batteries, there is a higher risk of accident and an increase in associated ‘button battery injury’ especially for our kids.

As well as their increasing use, button batteries happen to be just the right size for a kid to suck, swallow, choke on, push up their nose, etc. Of course, even with the best intentions if you drop one by accident they’re difficult to find (for you – kids seem to locate them quite easily!).

The recent report looked at accidents with all kinds of batteries, but it was clear that the ‘button battery accident’ is the biggest problem – 84 out of every 100 ‘battery related ER visits’.

One of the doctors who wrote the report explains it like this:

“When these batteries stop in one spot in the oesophagus they can create a little micro-current and burn a hole right through, causing very serious damage in less than two hours,” he explained. “It can even burn into the aorta and cause a child to bleed to death.”

If an accident happens, the problem often can be sorted out in the ER, but in 8 of every 100 visits a child needs to be admitted to the hospital and these injuries are less simple to deal with and more upsetting for the kids and for you.

What happens?

Let’s look at an average 2 week period. There will be 112 visits to the various ERs for button battery related injury in children:

  • 87 kids will have eaten the button battery
  • 11 will have one stuck up their nose
  • 8 will suck the battery and risk some sort of mouth damage
  • 6 will have a battery stuck in their ear

Of these kids, 67 will be boys & 45 will be girls. On average, the kids are just under 4 years old.

So is it really that dangerous?

Take a look at this:

The battery was in the kids ear for 3 days before it was removed.

Skin was burned through to the bone across 1/2 of the kids ear canal.

Luckily that was all that happened, but obviously his hearing was at risk along with the risk of infection or damage to facial nerves.

Read the ‘Doctors Gates’ full article about this image

What can we do?

Go back to the first principle of first aid – keep things safe!

If battery compartment doors can be shut, then make sure they are.

Be very aware of your button batteries when you change them – try to do it somewhere you will easily find any that are dropped.

And of course keep batteries out of the reach of children.

“For parents, the message is that if they suspect that their child has swallowed a battery they need to get to the ER right away,” [Doctor] Smith said. “And in terms of prevention, they need to store and dispose of batteries out of reach, and also tape all battery compartments shut.”

Don’t just focus on their toys either, he also said -

“most were not coming from products intended for children. They were coming from remote controls, flashlights, etc”

If you’re not sure what the kids in your care have put in their ears/up their nose, etc. then get the doc to have a look for you – be safe. Do not use any kind of drops or liquid to ‘remove’ the object. It may ‘only’ be a button battery, but it’s still electricity and you can cause all kinds of chemical reactions which your kid really won’t enjoy.

It may be much more difficult to ever know if they have swallowed a battery, but keep the possibility in mind! If you’re unsure, get them off to the hospital.

Has it ever happened to you?

Use the comment box to let us know what happened and what was the outcome, so we can all learn from your experiences!

About Tony Howarth

Tony is a First Aid & CPR Instructor Trainer with Sea 2 Sky Safety Training Services and the company founder. Tony started with the British Red Cross in 1994. Has acted as first aid attendant for hundreds of events & treated many hundreds of people as a result. He is experienced in training a wide range of courses. He previously worked as an ambulance attendant with the British Red Cross. He is now in BC as a first aid instructor, and an instructor trainer (one who trains others to become instructors) Finally, Tony works at UBC Hospital as a pharmacist when not busy training safety
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5 Responses to Injury by Button Battery – don’t put them in there!

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