Thousands of Children Burned by Batteries

There is an alarming rise in the number of children ingesting lithium batteries: injuries and deaths from the “button” batteries affected more than 3,400 children last year.

The batteries, which are increasingly common and used in remote controls, thermometers, calculators, musical greeting cards, scales, toothbrushes and toys, cause internal burns in the esophagus and throat.

KGW of Portland recently interviewed Dr. Barry Newman with Providence Pediatric Surgery: he says if a child doesn’t choke on the lithium battery on its way down, the battery will likely stick to their esophagus. Even batteries without enough juice to power electronics can get charged, heat up, and burn the throat. “The worst problems occur when that burns a hole into the wind pipe…if that hole goes into a blood vessel, there’s nothing to stop the bleeding … a lot of times, these kids will bleed to death before you even get them back into the emergency room.”

Here are some tips from the National Capital Poison Center on what to do if you suspect a child has ingested a battery.

  1. Call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333 or call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222.
  2. If possible, get the battery identification number, found on the package or from a matching battery.
  3. Get to a hospital. An x-ray must be obtained right away. In most instances, the battery must be removed or pass on within a couple of hours to prevent a serious or permanent injury.

Most lithium batteries, particularly those in children’s toys, are in a secure compartment that requires a screwdriver to open, but others – like those in remote controls – are easily accessible to small children.