Battery swallowing is nothing new for children (or even the elderly, who can confuse cell batteries with pills), but there's new cause to beware: The small, lithium button batteries that power your bathroom scales or remotes, if swallowed by a child, can cause significant damage. The New York Times reported on the dangers of these disc-like batteries, including two cases where ingesting them killed an 18-month-old and a 13-month old. The batteries, particularly those whose numbers start with 20 (which indicates 20 millimeters), can burn a hole in a child's esophagus or damage the vocal cords or gastrointestinal tract -- within as little as 2 hours after ingestion. Dr. Toby Litovitz, who authored articles in Pediatrics on the dangers of lithium batteries, said ingesting them is akin to swallowing drain cleaner or lye.
While lithium batteries in children's toys are installed with screws, the ones in remotes or scales are usually only secured with a plastic covering -- and, as all parents know, kids can get into anything. So when you're locking up your sharp scissors and dangerous household cleaners, double-check that remote with the lithium battery, too.