Button Batteries Are Dangerous

 Dear Parents,

Swallowing a button battery is no small thing. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Here’s what happened in my family last year.

It’s 7am and I am sitting in the surgical waiting room at Phoenix Children’s Hospital waiting for my 11-month-old grandson to get out of surgery. Last night Alex swallowed a button battery. And let me tell you, it was pretty scary.

Daddy was right there, sitting on the floor playing with him. The batteries fell out of a plastic pumpkin that had been a toy for months. And as silly as this sounds, none of us knew it had batteries that made the handle light up. Talk about a good lesson here.

As soon as they realized Alex had swallowed a battery, he was in his car seat on the way to the pediatric ER. They did an x-ray and found the battery had gone past his esophagus and was sitting in his stomach. And mom and dad were told that was a good thing, if there is anything good about this.

 Once the battery passes the esophagus, there is a 50/50 chance that it will pass on it’s on. If the battery stays in the esophagus, it can have a chemical reaction with the saliva and cause life-threatening burns.

In this case, the ER said to take Alex home and come back the next night (12 hours later) for another x-ray. If he hadn’t passed it, they would have to do surgery to remove it. They also told my mom and dad to feed Alex lots of food. A big ‘No No! They said that if the battery was in his stomach, it wouldn’t breakdown, leak or cause burns. As we found out later, this is not true.

So here’s what happened next, my daughter and son-in-law decided to take Alex to Phoenix Children’s hospital ER for another opinion. And let me tell you, that was the best thing they could have done. They admitted him immediately and to make a long story short, at 7am the next morning, Alex was in surgery to remove the battery, as it didn’t pass as we had hoped. So here’s the interesting thing. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Alex was fine and two hours later was pushing a toy down the hallway of the hospital and drinking water. The battery that came out of the toy was silver, when they removed it the silver was now brown meaning it did react with the stomach acid and caused some minor internal burns. But thankfully, nothing serious and no lasting effects! Phew!!!

Here is one tip every parent should know: “Go with your intuition in any situation when it comes to your children. Even if you can’t explain it, go with your gut.” If my daughter and son-in-law didn’t go with their intuition, this story may not have had a happy ending.

Tiny button batteries are shiny silver circles. And to a curious child, especially a pre-toddler, everything goes into the mouth.

They are found in small remotes, car key fobs, calculators, bathroom scales, reading lights, flameless candles, ornaments, hearing aids, thermometers, watches, flashing jewelry, singing greeting cards, games and toys.

 Here are 10 things I want every parent to know:

  1. When purchasing toys with batteries, chose those that need a tool to get into the battery compartment.
  2. Never change batteries in front of your children.
  3. Don’t ever let your children play with batteries. 
  4. For extra protection, duct tape any items that contain batteries.
  5. When your child plays at another’s home, ask if any toys contain batteries and are secure.
  6. Store batteries like medication, out of reach or in a locked cabinet.
  7. Check weekly to see if any toys or household items with batteries are secure.
  8. If you have a broken item that contains batteries, throw it out.
  9. If you suspect your little one has swallowed a battery, go to the ER immediately.
  10. When playing or caring for your little one, be fully present. No phones, eating or doing anything else that can be a distraction. It only takes a second for an accident to happen, and you can’t turn back the clock.

The happy news… my adorable grandson is fine and we are all breathing easier. But none of us will ever forget those 48 hours of fear.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 1997 through 2010, nearly 30,000 young children up to age 4 were taken to emergency rooms for battery-related injuries, the report said, with more than half the cases involving button batteries.

Fourteen deaths from battery-related injuries were reported over that period in children ages 7 months to 3 years old.