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Button Battery Dangers

Parents of small children are usually on-guard against potential choking hazards, but one item that is often overlooked is the button battery or disc battery. These batteries are about the size of a quarter or smaller and pose a dangerous risk to children if ingested.

Ann Slattery is the managing director of the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama. She says they have received 60 calls related to disc batteries in the last three years. Thankfully none resulted in a fatality, but swallowing a disc battery can be extremely dangerous. Not only do they pose a choking hazard, but they can result in actual burns resulting in tissue damage and internal bleeding. When ingestion occurs, it’s crucial for the child to have an X-Ray to determine where the battery is located and if surgery is needed.

Between 1985-2009, more than 56,000 disc battery ingestions were reported to the National Poison Data System. Because these batteries are small, often hidden, and used in so many devices, they can often be overlooked. “These are in so many different products,” Slattery says. “They are in greeting cards, remotes, hearing aids and watches, even in children’s toys so they might get ahold of them.”

More often than not, the parent did not see the ingestion of the battery. Slattery says it’s important to recognize the symptoms. The symptoms of possible poisoning by ingesting a disc battering include coughing, choking, loss of appetite, irritability, and fever.

Slattery says in some cases of ingestion, if the battery is small and moved beyond the esophagus, it may pass uneventfully through the rest of the digestive system and pass within a matter of days. “However if it’s lodged in the esophagus, it is considered an emergency and requires immediate removal,” she says.

It’s important for parents to supervise their children and be aware of what they are playing with, and to think ‘does that have a battery inside?’

If you suspect your child has swallowed a disc battery, call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If it’s an obvious medical emergency, call 911.

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