What to do if your Child Swallowed A button Battery

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My child swallowed a button battery; what do I do?


*first off it is extremely important that you get your child treatment right away if they swallowed a button battery.


Call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 800-498-8666, immediately.

In the United States alone, children ingest over 2,500  button batteries a year. There have been over 12 fold increase in fatal cases in the last decade than when compared to the previous decade, says Dr. Ian Jacob in the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. As such, there's an urgent need to prevent children from having access to button batteries. Also, educating the general public on what to do when a child ingests button batteries, especially in cases where access to a first responder might take hours.

My child swallowed a Button Battery, what do I do

If your child accidentally takes in a button battery, you should immediately give him or her honey. According to a study carried out on pigs, honey will reduce the risk of any severe injury. It takes about two hours after ingesting the button battery for any severe damage to occur. So, the time interval between ingestion and removal is very critical. Urgency should be applied within this critical interval to prevent esophageal injury.

Researchers have also carried out tests on pigs with various liquids like honey, sports drinks, soda, and juice. The test was to know if these drinks would provide a protective barrier between the swallowed battery and the tissue before removal. The discovery is that honey and the medication known as sucralfate were the most effective. Children with sepsis, or allergy to sucralfate, should not use sucralfate. This precaution is to prevent the small risk of botulism.

If a Battery is Swallowed or Placed in the Ear or Nose

We all know children are naturally curious, and as a result of their curiosity, they could place foreign bodies like batteries in their mouth, ears, or nose. It could cause hazards like choking or put your child in danger of severe infections or injuries.

Button batteries are small. Apart from them causing blockage to the nasal cavity, they could also reach inside the body to cause further damage. It takes less than four hours for a button battery placed in the ear or nose to cause any severe damage.

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If your child may have put a button battery in his/her nose or ear, looking up their nose or ears may not reveal anything. However, there are some symptoms you can keep an eye out for:

  1. When a button battery is in a child's nose or ear, it could cause nasal drainage. This drainage could be bloody, grey, or clear.
  2. Difficulty breathing is another symptom associated with a button battery in a child's ear or nose. The battery may clog the nostrils, thereby making it difficult for air to move through the nasal cavity.
  3. The child may also make a whistling noise when breathing.

If you suspect a button battery may be in your child's ear or nose, get your child to the doctor. The doctor will then use a handheld lighted instrument to examine your child or an X-ray to be sure. Once confirmed the battery is in the nose or ear; removal should follow as quickly as possible. Make sure you do not panic, else your child would also panic, so try to keep calm as much as you can. Here are some tips to note when removing the battery:

  1. Try using tweezers, but be extremely careful
  2. Avoid using a cotton swab or finger to remove it as it could push it further inward
  3. Try to make your child stop sniffing

What does a button battery do inside a person

While most button battery ingestions are benign, passing through the gut without a problem, in recent years the number of debilitating or fatal battery ingestions has dramatically increased. If a button battery remains in the esophagus, it causes tissue damage. Comments, according to Jacob, a director, and otolaryngologist of the Hospital's Centre for Paediatric Airways Disorder and other researchers say more. When a baby swallows a button battery, it reacts with saliva and tissues of the esophagus. Eventually, it then creates a solution which can dissolve tissues and cause severe damage to the throat, major blood vessels, vocal cords, and airway.

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Furthermore, outside the battery, an electric current may form, which would generate an alkaline chemical (hydroxide) that can cause tissue burn. On ingesting a button battery, it is difficult to tell where it is in the body unless an X-ray is done.

According to poison control, as of writing this there have been 59 fatal cases reported.

What is the treatment for a child that swallows a button battery?

There are several treatments for a child that swallows a button battery after an X-ray confirms it's there. Here are some common procedures:

  1. Consider administering sucralfate suspension or liquid honey,
  2. Endoscopic removal,
  3. Magnet affixed to button tube or balloon catheter.

According to a report from Hartford Courant Cameron Soto, a one-year-old baby did what any baby would have done, played with toys. But unfortunately, in mid-December, Cameron ingested a 20mm, 3-volt lithium-ion battery, also known as a button battery. And without the parents knowing, it remained inside Cameron for two to four hours. The battery burnt over two-thirds of Cameron's esophagus.

It took about three months of treating Cameron at the Connecticut Children's Medical Centre Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist for him to recover. The injury also caused swelling from the bottom of Cameron's brain to the top of his heart. So, baby Cameron will have to relearn how to talk, walk, swallow, and eat.

Tip to prevent your child from being exposed to button batteries

Here are some steps parents and guardians can take to prevent their children from being exposed to ingesting button batteries.

  1. Search the home for any button battery and remove them from reach of children
  2. If possible, use batteries in child-resistant safety packaging,
  3. Keep spare or loose batteries locked away
  4. Keep devices out of reach or sight of small children
  5. Be mindful of the type of toys that belongs to older children in your home that might contain button batteries.