By Ashley McClary, MD
For parents, batteries are seemingly everywhere. Toys, electronics, flashlights and key fobs are just a few of the everyday items that are charged by these tiny power sources – some of which can create serious dangers for children.
Many smaller electronic items use button batteries – which are becoming increasingly common. Because of the increase in these particularly small, disc-shaped batteries, there has been an increase in incidents of children swallowing batteries.
If a battery is swallowed, or stuck in an ear or nose, it can burn through body tissue. It can be potentially fatal if they get stuck in a child’s esophagus (the tube from our mouths to our stomachs).
What to do if your child swallows a battery
If your child swallows a battery, you should seek immediate medical care. Because the acids are so destructive to our throats, esophagus, stomach and our intestines, it needs to be removed as soon as possible if it becomes lodged.
It is usually easier to remove a battery before it leaves the esophagus or stomach. Close follow up with a GI specialist (a gastroenterologist, or “stomach/gut” doctor) is also necessary, because of “silent damage” caused by leaking acids can lead to ulcerations, bleeding and even death.
Prevention is the best approach
Be sure to store batteries where children can’t access them, keep them away from kids while replacing batteries and dispose of batteries properly after changing them. Also, be sure any children’s toys with batteries – or other household items children may have contact with – have secure battery compartments such as screw fasteners so your children can’t remove them while playing.
Dr. Ashley McClary is a pediatrician at McDowell Pediatrics in Marion.