Warning for parents: lithium "button" battery can burn children

They're easy to find within a device and for a small child, the shiny, silver "button" battery found inside many household items from key fabs to remote controls can have dangerous, even deadly, consequences. 

"Most kids who are swallowing these batteries are actually getting them from remote controls and from key fabs," said Alison Pence, North Memorial's injury prevention program coordinator. 

If swallowed, the nickle-sized 3-volt lithium batteries can get stuck in a child's throat and start burning away at the esophagus. A demonstration at North Memorial Medical Center involving a battery placed between two slices of deli ham shows how quickly the battery burns through the ham. After several hours the battery actually kills the tissue. 

Medical and public health officials are trying to get the word out about the dangers of these batteries after a high-profile case in Arizona where a 1-year-old boy swallowed a battery that had fallen out of a DVD remote. The boy has since undergone 19 surgeries and had to have four inches of his esophagus removed.

"Even one kid having this happen where it's preventable, is one too many," said Kirk Hughes of Hennepin Regional Poison Center. 

Hughes said parents can minimize the possibility of any internal damage by getting the child to the hospital within two hours of an ingestion.
"We want all children with a potential ingestion to go in for that X-ray within two hours whenever possible," said Hughes.

With the increased availability of these batteries in items and products of all sorts, even musical greeting cards, Pence said it's all the more important to keep them out of the reach of children.

"Be aware of what products have the batteries, and if you think there is a possible ingestion get to the hospital," said Pence.

Parents can also call the Hennepin Regional Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alexandra Renslo reporting

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


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