Many dangers from button batteries

Dec 6 2011 - 12:39am

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OGDEN -- With the holiday season here and with the increasing presence of electronic items in the market, more and more gifts are being run by button batteries.

These small, shiny objects are the perfect size for a curious child to pick up and stick in their mouth or even push into their ear or nose, and once inside the body, medical experts say there is the potential for damage.

"These batteries will cause tissue damage wherever they lodge," said Dr. Matthew Feil, Lakeview Hospital's medical staff emergency department chairman. "Esophageal perforation can occur and can be life-threatening. Extracting them from the nose and ear canals can be painful and anxiety-provoking for both the child and parents. Inhaling them can cause choking, infection, respiratory failure and even death."

Feil said he has seen these batteries in every orifice above the neck, so it's important to keep them away from children at all costs.

Dr. Cody Hawkes, a pediatrician on the medical staff at Davis Hospital and Medical Center, said if the batteries are ingested into the stomach, the acidic contents rapidly break down the battery, causing material inside to be released into the digestive tract. That can potentially cause erosion of the walls of the gut and lead to a perforation, or tear. This is serious and life-threatening, he said.

"If a battery is missing from a small toy without explanation, you have to suspect the child ingested it," Hawkes said. "I have only seen one actual case of a battery ingested by a child. An X-ray examination showed the battery in the child's stomach, and the child was taken urgently to have an endoscopic removal of the battery."

Ogden Regional Medical Center emergency room director Janet Smith said sometimes an electrical current can form around the outside of the body, generating an alkaline chemical that can cause tissue burns.

The incidence of button battery ingestion is rising, according to the National Capital Poison Center. From 2006 to 2010, more than 3,400 cases per year were reported. McKay-Dee Hospital emergency room nurse manager Kathy Calton said if your child develops sudden symptoms such as trouble breathing, gagging or vomiting, get immediate medical help. Other symptoms may include fever, abdominal pain and blood in the stools.

"Keep button batteries out of sight and reach of children," she said. "Kids think these shiny things are cool and want to play with them."

Calton also said to double-check to make sure the battery compartment cover is secure once batteries are inserted.

In addition, Smith said, don't store the batteries in the refrigerator, where children might assume it's just another food item.

The National Capital Poison Center advises parents to immediately call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 222-625-3333 or your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 if you suspect your child has swallowed a battery. If readily available, provide the battery identification number found on the package or from a matching battery.

Don't induce vomiting and do not allow the child to eat or drink until an X-ray shows the battery is beyond the esophagus.

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