Despite public education campaigns warning parents of the dangers, emergency room visits due to battery poisoning were twice as high between 2010 and 2019 as they were in 1990 to 2009, according to the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
That’s an average of one battery-related emergency visit every 1.25 hours for children under the age of 18, the report found. Children under the age of 5 were most at risk, the report said, especially toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2. who often put things they find in their mouths.
“The battery literally burned a hole through his esophagus into his windpipe, allowing his stomach bile to flow back into his lungs,” the couple shared on Emmett’s Fight Foundation, the website of a nonprofit foundation they set up to educate other parents about the dangers of button batteries.
The battery also burned the nerves to Emmett’s vocal cords, the Raunchs said. To deal with complications from his injuries, Emmett underwent six surgeries in five years, including the replacement of his entire esophagus using part of his intestine.
Batteries are everywhere
Button batteries are completely modern homes, including some places you might not think of, such as flashing or moving ornaments, clip-on reading lights, and singing greeting cards.
The new study analyzed data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which tracks emergency room visits at more than 100 hospitals in the United States.
The analysis found that battery ingestion accounted for the majority (90%) of these battery-related emergency room visits, followed by battery insertion in the nose (5.7%), ears (2.5% ) and mouth without swallowing (1.8%).
Although not as serious as ingestion, lithium batteries placed in an ear or nose can cause significant injuries, such as perforation of the nasal septum or eardrum, hearing loss or paralysis of the facial nerve.
What should parents do?
Prevention is key. Do not insert or replace batteries in front of small children — shiny objects are tempting. Dispose of empty batteries immediately and safely, and keep any replacement batteries out of the reach of children, experts recommend.
Be especially careful with batteries the size of a penny or larger, the National Poison Control Center recommended.
“The lithium cell with a diameter of 20 mm is one of the most serious problems when swallowed. These problem cells can be identified by their imprint (engraved numbers and letters) and often have one of these 3 codes: CR2032, CR2025, CR2016. If swallowed and if not removed quickly, these larger button batteries could cause death — or burn a hole in your child’s esophagus,” the center noted.
Always supervise children playing with a toy or device containing a button battery and educate older children about the dangers so they can help.
What if you suspect your child has swallowed a battery — or put one in their nose or ear?
“Call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline immediately at 800-498-8666. Quick action is critical. Don’t wait for symptoms to develop,” the NPCC advised.
Signs of ingestion may look like the child swallowed a coin, so be wary, experts said. Typical behavior may include wheezing, drooling, coughing, vomiting, chest discomfort, refusal to eat, or gagging when attempting to drink or eat. But for some kids, like Emmett Rauch, it can take days for symptoms to be severe enough to notice.
If you suspect it has been swallowed, don’t make your child vomit, Texas Children’s advised.
Don’t give your child anything to eat or drink until an X-ray shows the battery has moved past the esophagus, the National Poison Control Center noted.
“Batteries stuck in the esophagus should be removed as soon as possible, as serious damage can occur in as little as 2 hours. Batteries in the nose or ear should also be removed immediately to avoid permanent damage,” the center advised.