Tag Archives: kids and button batteries

A Safety Update on Button Batteries and Magnets

by Marianne Frederick

ChildSafetyBlog.org is pleased that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has set standards for children’s products and toys that bear magnets, so you may not see the tiny batteries and magnets formerly used in many children’s toys. But, adult desk and “stress relief” toys containing those same small magnets and batteries have produced another challenge: Young kids are still getting hold of button batteries and magnets and swallowing them, sometimes with disastrous results.

Parents and caregivers, when you think about giving a gift this holiday season, if the gift requires batteries, take a look at the size of the batteries and/or magnets and if they are tiny and can be swallowed by a child in the gift recipient’s family, nix the gift. Consider giving another type of desk decoration.

You will also find the disc-shaped magnets and tiny batteries in singing greeting cards and jewelry, so please keep your eyes peeled and keep products with small or loose magnets away from young children who might swallow them. In addition, don’t buy magnets sold in sets of 100 or more, as it could be hard to tell if a few magnets disappear. Have a talk with bigger kids about the dangers of magnets and using them as fake piercings in their mouths or noses… big kids can get hurt by magnets too. If a relative or holiday visitor in your home wears or removes a hearing aid that uses the tiny batteries, ask them not to leave the batteries anywhere a child can get to them.

Be aware of the symptoms of magnet/battery ingestion:

  • Abdominal pain, vomiting and fever. Since these symptoms are common in kids and not always caused by ingesting magnets/batteries or other objects, you may not suspect what has transpired immediately.
  • Treatment should not be delayed–the possibility of severe injuries to the digestive tract, stomach, intestines–and even death–are possible.
  • Contact your pediatrician or take your child to the nearest emergency room immediately if you suspect your child has swallowed or been injured by a magnet or button battery. If there are any signs of choking or respiratory difficulty, CALL 911.

If a child in your home is injured from swallowing a small magnet or button battery, after you have attended to your child’s needs, please report the injury to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, by visitinghttp://www.saferproducts.gov on the Internet, or by calling 1-800-638-2772.

Button Batteries Still Sending Kids to Emergency Rooms

With what we already know about button batteries, it is a big surprise that they continue to be so pervasive in the environment and continue to represent a serious health and safety hazard to young children. The presence of button batteries in home, school and play environments continues to hurt kids. Nancy Walsh in her article of May 14, 2012, for MedPage Today, says button batteries are still “posing increasing risk to young children with a near doubling of battery-related emergency room visits over the past two decades.”

Walsh pointed to the ratio of button battery-related trips to emergency rooms in 1990 was 4 per 100,000 people, in the following two decades the ratio increased to 7.4 trips per 100,000 people–according to a study performed by Gary A. Smith, MD, PhD, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and his colleagues, which examined data from a host of hospitals throughout the country. Astonishingly, for children under 5 years of age, the study found the rate increased from 10 trips per 100,000 to 19.1 trips per 100,000 (to be reported in the June issue of Pediatrics) due to button battery-related incidents. So, in nearly 20 years, the rate of button battery-related emergency room trips almost doubled (for the same size population).

The types of injuries and causes of fatal outcomes in children range from a swallowed button battery becoming lodged in a child’s esophagus, the battery’s contents perforating the esophagus, or the presence of the battery doing damage to the child’s larynx, vocal cords, and causing bleeding. An estimated more than 65,000 visits have been made to emergency rooms across the country during the past 20 years due to button battery-related incidents. More than 75 percent of the children were under five years of age–and approximately 66 percent were boys. The most common sources of the batteries were games, toys, remote control devices, watches and hearing aids.

Button batteries don’t just find their way into children’s mouths, but they turn up in their ears and noses too, emergency room staffs find. So parents need to be aware and keep items that contain button batteries locked up and out of reach. In a radiographic evaluation of a child who has swallowed a button battery, the flatter button battery will show a characteristic double-rim which might not be seen in the case of a child having swallowed a coin. Dr. Smith and the co-authors of this study advise parents to tape all battery compartments securely shut if you have battery- (and button battery-) powered items in your home. The authors of the study would also like to see manufacturers childproof anything with a battery or button battery in it. We couldn’t agree more!

Remember, if you think your child has swallowed a button battery, call the Poison Control Center immediately 1-800-222-1222!