Small button batteries can be huge health danger for kids, experts warn

Print
Email
|

by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on October 5, 2012 at 8:31 AM

DeSOTO -- Two-year-old Roman is a curious and busy boy.

"He tries to take everything apart," said Roman's mother, Myra Hernandez. "His little fingers are always busy!"

So when Roman recently got a party goody bag, his mother knew just what to do with the plastic whistle she found inside.

"That could easily crack open," Hernandez said. "This is going straight in the trash."

The whistle contains several button batteries, about the size of little candies or pills. Button batteries are used to power hearing aids, watches, flashing jewelry, and countless other gizmos.

More than 40,000 children were treated for battery-related injuries in the past decade, according to the CDC.

North Texas Poison Center officials said parents don't seem to understand the danger when it comes to button batteries.

"Absolutely, it can be deadly," said Dr. Stacey Hail, a medical toxicologist and emergency room physician.

Hail said the batteries can lodge in the esophagus or stomach after being swallowed. There they emit an electrical current that burns.

"As the burning continues, it can actually perforate or burn a hole in the esophagus," Dr. Hail explained. "So the bacteria that is in your GI tract, gets in your in chest cavity and it can have a rip-roaring infection."

An experiment showed how quickly the damage can be caused. In a matter of minutes, a button battery inserted into a hot dog begins cooking the hot dog from the inside out. It doesn't take long.

"These batteries actually start burning the tissue on contact," Hail said. "A battery can actually burn through the esophagus in two hours."

When Myra Hernandez heard of the danger, she went through her son's toys and the kitchen cabinets and got rid of everything that contained the tiny trouble.

If swallowed, button batteries often pass naturally. But since potentially dangerous burning starts on contact, health experts urge parents not to watch and wait -- get to the emergency room immediately.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|