Button Battery Injuries in Children
Written by Faith Anderson on May 15, 2012
Emergency Room Visits for Swallowed Batteries
Researchers used the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to track battery-related emergency room visits in the United States between 1990 and 2009. They examined injuries associated with swallowing, mouth exposure, and insertion into the nose and ears, indicating that over that time period, an estimated 65,788 youths under 18 visited emergency rooms due to battery-related injuries. Most of those injuries occurred in boys, and the mean age at the time of injury was four years old. According to the findings, more than three-quarters of the injuries were due to the button-sized batteries being swallowed.
Battery Swallowing Could Lead to Fatal Injuries
Over the course of the study, there was an increase in the number of emergency room visits, with the most significant increase coming in the last eight years. In 1990, the number of button-battery ER visits was 1,301, and by 2009, that number had more than doubled to 2,785. Fortunately, about 92% of the children who visit the emergency room for battery-related injuries undergo treatment and are released. However, the batteries do pose a risk of serious internal damage and other injuries that can cause more severe health problems. For example, the batteries can become lodged in the esophagus, where they can create a small current and possibly burn a hole. If the hole leads to the aorta, it could cause the child to bleed to death. The study noted a 6.7-fold increase in fatal outcomes in battery swallowing cases from 1985 to 2009.
Household Devices Could Pose Risk for Children
According to Dr. Gary A. Smith, the lead researcher and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the findings are a sign that battery manufacturers need to make an effort to reduce the risk of injury caused by button batteries, and parents need to be more aware of the dangers. The researchers suggest a focus on child-resistant battery covers as one possible avenue, and they also note that it’s not just toys, but numerous household devices that these are batteries found in, including flashlights and remote controls.