The holidays mean something a little bit different for everyone. For me, it’s the time of year in which I step up my button battery awareness efforts into high gear.
My youngest son, Emmett, swallowed a button battery eight years ago and has suffered serious injuries to his airway and lungs as a result. The damage to Emmett’s esophagus and airway led to 68 surgical procedures and therapies. He’s on the upswing now but we have traveled a long road to get here. You can read more about Emmett’s experience on a previous blog post: Life After Swallowing a Button Battery.
The Dangers of Button Batteries
As we learned the hard way, button batteries aren’t just a swallowing hazard for young children. They can get lodged in the esophagus or intestine, slowly leaking alkaline electrolytes and causing internal chemical burns. The National Capital Poison Center states that more than 3,500 people swallow button batteries every year.
I increase outreach efforts this time of year because button batteries are in so many seasonal toys, greeting cards and ornaments. And so much more education is needed on how dangerous those seemingly innocuous little batteries are, regardless of size. The potential for damage is greater the larger it is, because it’s more likely to get stuck.
In Arizona where we live, I like to draw a parallel to swimming pools. Not everyone has a swimming pool. But everyone is aware of the potential for drowning and the extra safety measures needed to keep kids safe. Similarly, everyone has button batteries in their home but not everyone is aware of what household items they’re in.
Items Containing Button Batteries
Right now I’m most concerned about all of the trinkets we get for the holidays. Things like blinking toys, headbands, tea lights, ornaments and greeting cards. Many of these items have a button battery in them without a screw to secure it in the device. Please don’t take any chances – get them out of your house! It will only take a moment for your baby or toddler to put it in his mouth.
Then there are the everyday items in your house like remotes, thermometers, hearing aids, remote-entry keys, calculators, scales, toys and games.
I’ve also noticed a trend with kids’ crafts. Schools, camps, and libraries are making crafts with button batteries, to help them understand how circuits work. Often, the button batteries are only secured by a piece of tape. Please inspect all of the crafts coming into your home!
Steps to Prevent Young Kids From Swallowing Them
I realize it is impossible to get rid of all of these items in your house, but there are additional steps you can take to protect your young children from swallowing them:
- Identify the items that are in your house and keep them out of your child’s reach.
- Lock up loose or spare batteries.
- If the button battery is in something that you use and move every day, like a remote, duct tape it. This is not a perfect solution but it will make it more difficult for a young child to get it out.
We have a lot more work to do to spread awareness. 3,500 injuries a year is 3,500 too many. Please join me in this effort by sharing this post and spreading awareness about the dangers. With a little extra precaution, injuries from button batteries can be prevented.
If you have any questions about the dangers of button batteries, please call your Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
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