Tragically we are seeing, More and more children being seriously injured or even dying from swallowing button or disc batteries. This tragedy can be prevented.
Everyday items, while appearing harmless, can in fact represent a very real and serious threat in our households.
Children under the age of 5 are most at risk, as their means of exploring the world is via the placement of objects in their mouths.
Coin batteries under 2 cm diameter pose the greatest risk as these are most likely to get stuck in the oesophagus.
Injury from a battery stuck in the food pipe, or oesophagus, can happen in just 2 hours.
The energy produced from these batteries reacts with the saliva to create caustic soda – this is the chemical we use to unblock drains! (so we can easily appreciate the damage this could do to our child’s insides).
The battery then burns through the oesophagus wall leading to severe bleeding and sometimes death. Long term complications include insertion of a feeding tube, vocal cord paralysis, along with prolonged and repeated hospital stays.
Initially, there may be no symptoms to detect. Many children are too young to verbalise that they swallowed a battery. More serious outcomes result from unwitnessed ingestion, as there is often a delay in recognition and diagnosis. Therefore, prevention is the key to ensuring ingestion of a battery just never happens.
Battery and toy corporations are only too aware of the potential risk of their product to children and they have made concerted efforts to reduce this risk. Many coin batteries are coated with a bitter tasting chemical that will be unpleasant if placed in the mouth and encourage the child to spit it out. Most batteries are enclosed in packaging that cannot be accessed by a child.
Toys that have undergone these safety regulations display the CE Mark. This indicates safety measures such as a closed compartment for the battery included in this toy’s production.
So always look for the CE mark when making purchases to help keep our children safe
Other ways to keep our children safe include,
1. Never leave batteries in view or within reach of young children
2. Check all household devices that contain batteries regularly, and ensure the battery compartment is secure and closed
3. Only purchase products that carry the CE Mark, and require a screwdriver or tool to open the battery compartment
4. Be particularly aware of online purchasing and that these products may not undergo the same safety regulations
5. Have a low index of suspicious for battery ingestion if your child is coughing or spitting unexpectedly, especially if there has been a period of unwitnessed play
6. If you have any concern of ingestion, present to emergency services immediately, do not waste time
Remember that this is a preventable problem, and with simple interventions in your household, you can ensure your child’s safety.
Dr Julie Lucey, Consultant Paediatrician and Dr. Bronagh Emergency Medicine Reistrar