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December 24, 2019

Button batteries, which can burn the esophagus, pose danger to young children

Be mindful of any toys containing the small, shiny batteries

Parenting Hazards
Button Batteries Choking Hazard Source/Image licensed from Ingram Images

Button batteries, like those shown above, not only are choking hazards for small children, their acid also can burn the esophagus.

For many people, Christmas is a wonderful time of year when special memories with loved ones are created. 

Of course, there also are presents under the tree. And sometimes there are hidden dangers in many of the gifts waiting to be opened by children. 

Coin-sized batteries, often referred to as button batteries, not only are a choking hazard, but the battery acid contained in them can burn through the esophagus. 

When the battery reacts with the saliva in the throat, a chemical reaction occurs, potentially burning the esophagus, according to experts at Children's Hospital Oakland in California.

That happened to Sophie Skill, a two-year-old girl from Sheffield, United Kingdom. The girl recovered, but she spent several days on life support and additional weeks in the hospital.

"Within two hours it had already done the damage," her mother, Clare, told the BBC. "They did an X-ray and found it had burned through her esophagus and her lung. She had to go on a ventilator."

Every year, more than 3,000 swallowing cases of all sizes and types of button batteries are reported to U.S. poison control centers. 

Button batteries are used in many of the toys and gadgets that children may receive at Christmas, including fitness trackers, gaming headsets and even some musical Christmas cards. Because they are small and shiny, they are attractive to small children who might be tempted to put it in their mouths.

According to the National Capital Poison Center, the most dangerous button batteries are 20 mm, 3-volt lithium coin cells because they can easily get stuck in the throat and they burn faster.

If a battery is able to pass into the stomach, it usually doesn't cause any problems, according to poison control experts. If the patient has no symptoms, it can pass through the system naturally. However, batteries in the nose or ear need to be removed as quickly as possible.

The best way to protect small children from the dangers of button batteries is to make sure all extra batteries are stored up high, where little fingers cannot get to them, and to always dispose of used batteries properly. 

Also, check all toys and gadgets for battery compartments and make sure they are lockable or that they can be secured with strong tape. Any products, like musical greeting cards and remote controls, that do not have easily securable compartments also need to be kept out of reach.

Remind any family members wearing a hearing aid to store the batteries securely, and don't allow children to play with battery-operated products in which the batteries are easily accessible.

If a child swallows a battery or gets one stuck in the ear or nose, call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 800-498-8666 right away, even if the child is not experiencing any pain or distress.

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