The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently issued a warning about the dangers of button batteries; as their use increases, so do battery-related injuries and deaths. And while the frequency of incidents of accidental swallowing has not increased, there has been a nearly sevenfold increase in the percent of button battery ingestions resulting in a severe injuries or fatalities since 1985, according to a recent study conducted by Dr. Toby Litovitz of the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C.—due largely to the increasing popularity of the 20mm lithium battery.
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Children younger than 4 and senior adults are most often injured in battery-swallowing incidents. Young children gain access to the batteries through common household items like remote controls, calculators, flashlights, or toys. Should they swallow a battery, it may pass through the intestine, but more often it will become lodged in the throat or intestine and can generate and release hydroxide, resulting in dangerous chemical burns in as little as two hours. To make matters worse, adults are often unaware that a child has swallowed a battery, making immediate diagnosis and treatment more difficult. Symptoms include an upset stomach and fever, but there may be no symptoms at all.
Plus: Troubleshooting Toy Safety Hazards
The CPSC recommends the following steps to prevent unintentional battery ingestion:
- Discard button batteries carefully.
- Do not allow children to play with button batteries, and keep button batteries out of your child's reach.
- Caution hearing aid users to keep hearing aids and batteries out of the reach of children.
- Never put button batteries in your mouth for any reason as they are easily swallowed accidentally.
- Always check medications before ingesting them. Adults have swallowed button batteries mistaken for pills or tablets.
- Keep remotes and other electronics out of your child's reach if the battery compartments do not have a screw to secure them. Use tape to help secure the battery compartment.
- If a button battery is ingested, immediately seek medical attention. The National Battery Ingestion Hotline is available anytime at (202) 625-3333 (call collect if necessary), or call your poison center at (800) 222-1222.