07:49am Thursday 19 October 2017

Tiny button batteries can cause big problems for little children

While musical holiday cards are a lot of fun,
their batteries pose a danger to little ones.
Kids swallow them and stick them in their ears and nose,
A health problem this does pose.
The Montreal Children’s Hospital doesn’t mean to preach
But please keep these batteries out of reach.

As the size of new technological devices shrink, small so-called button batteries are becoming more and more common. They are used to power musical greeting cards, touch-and-learn baby books, watches, toys, hearing aids, cameras, digital planners and much more.  Button batteries are tiny, round, and shiny which makes them very attractive and noticeable to children who often readily and eagerly play with them and inadvertently stick them in their ears or nose or swallow them.  This is not a trivial issue; these batteries can cause significant damage in a very short period of time. A button battery that has been ingested requires immediate medical intervention.

“I’ve seen the effects ingesting a button battery can have on a child. This is not something parents and health care providers should take lightly. Button batteries in the wrong place can be potentially fatal or can cause long term damage. If you child ingests a button battery, it is a medical emergency you child needs to be seen immediately,” says Dr. Sam Daniel, Director of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre. “At The Montreal Children’s Hospital we treat approximately 12 children a year who have ingested button batteries and we tend to see a spike in the numbers around the holiday season. The average age is between one and two.”

While many children who ingest button batteries recover with few long-term health issues, some develop long-term complications that significantly deteriorate quality of life, such as tracheostomy-tube or gastrostomy-tube dependence, vocal paralysis, hearing loss and septal perforation (cartilage in the nose is burned away causing nose deformity).

“It doesn’t take long for the battery to start corroding,” says Dr. Daniel. “In as little as three hours, significant damage can occur. Also, the longer the object is in the body, the harder it is to remove.” Dr. Daniel also councils parents not to try to remove the battery themselves, unless their child is having severe difficulty breathing, because they risk dislodging the object and forcing it further in potentially aggravating the situation and causing more damage.

“Children love opening and closing musical cards, if you happen to receive one this holiday season, please keep it out of the reach of your child.  Also, if a toy is powered by a button battery, make sure the battery compartment is secure by a screw so your child cannot readily open it. When you throw out a used button battery makes sure your child cannot retrieve it,” advises Dr. Daniel.


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