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Take steps to protect your kids and grandkids from button batteries as more kids are swallowing them

Button-battery-different-sizes-1000x666Pediatric battery-related emergency room visits increased significantly from 2010 to 2017, with children aged 5 years and younger having the highest rates, according to an article published in the Pediatrics journal.

An estimated 7,032 battery-related emergency department visits occurred annually among children aged under 18 years from 2010 to 2019, more than twice the number reported from 1990 to 2009.

Button batteries, which are small, round, and shiny, are being used to power an increasing number of devices in the home, including toys, digital watches, hearing aids, remote controls, and more. They’re often easy to remove and can lead to devastating injury in as little as two hours after ingestion.

The electrical current generated by the button batteries when they come into contact with body fluids such as saliva can burn through body tissue and can damage tissue even after the button battery is removed, leading to complications and death.

A button battery put in the nose can also cause a hole in nasal cartilage and infections, and ear canal insertion can lead to membrane perforation, hearing loss, and facial nerve paralysis.

President Joe Biden signed Reese’s Law Aug. 16. It requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission or CPSC to adopt product safety standards for button cell, lithium coin, and other small batteries that could injure or kill children who swallow them.

The bill, introduced in September 2021, was named after a 17-month-old girl, Reese Hamsmith, who died in 2020 after ingesting a button battery from a remote control. The battery burned a hole in her esophagus.

“It’s gut-wrenching that it took a campaign from one devastated family to focus attention on this hidden danger that has existed for years and years,” said Teresa Murray, director of the Consumer Watchdog Office for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “We are grateful for their efforts, as well as others whose work will help save children’s lives.

The CPSC and the National Capital Poison Center recommend the following steps to prevent unintentional battery ingestion:

  • Discard button batteries carefully.
  • Don’t allow children to play with button batteries, and keep button batteries out of your child’s reach.
  • Be especially cautious with any product that contains a battery that’s as big as a penny or larger. The 20 mm diameter lithium cell is one of the most serious problems when swallowed. These cells can be recognized by their imprint (engraved numbers and letters) and often have one of these 3 codes: CR2032, CR2025, or CR2016. If swallowed and not removed promptly, these larger button batteries can cause death or burn a hole through your child’s esophagus.
  • Caution hearing aid users to keep hearing aids and batteries out of the reach of children.
  • Never put button batteries in your mouth for any reason as they are easily swallowed accidentally.
  • Always check medications before ingesting them. Adults have swallowed button batteries mistaken for pills or tablets.
  • Keep remotes and other electronics out of your child’s reach if the battery compartments don’t have a screw to secure them. Use tape to help secure the battery compartment.
  • Don’t insert or change batteries in front of small children.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if a button battery is ingested. The National Battery Ingestion Hotline is available anytime at 800-498-8666, or call your poison center at 800-222-1222. Prompt action is critical. Don’t wait for symptoms to develop. If the battery was swallowed, don’t eat or drink until an x-ray shows the battery is beyond the esophagus. The center recently updated its guidelines to encourage parents and caregivers to administer honey immediately and while en route to the hospital after a child swallows a button battery. The recommendation came after a study demonstrated that eating honey after swallowing a button battery has the potential to reduce serious injuries in small children.

Here’s a video on how to prevent injuries from button batteries and what to do if one is ingested:

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