WebMD Health News
Louise Chang, MD
Oct. 5, 2009 -- Tiny "button type" batteries found in everything from
vibrating teethers to musical touch-and-learn baby books present big dangers to
young children, but parents and doctors are sorely undereducated about the
topic, research shows.
A study presented at the world's largest meeting of ear, nose, and throat
(ENT) professionals suggests it's common for young kids to ingest miniature
disc batteries, either by swallowing them or placing them up their nose. While
it's not surprising that children have an oral fixation, researchers say the
real news here is that adults don't have a good understanding of the
Every year, more than 3,000 people swallow button batteries, says the
National Capital Poison Center. Most of them (62%) are kids under age 5,
usually toddlers between ages 1 and 2.
Button batteries are tiny, round batteries about the size of a thumbnail or
smaller. They are found in hundreds of items, including toys. They are also
used to power hearing aids, musical greeting cards, watches, and
Eating or inhaling a button battery doesn't always lead to long-term health
problems, but it can. Most of the time, the battery passes out of the body
through the stool. But in some cases, it can get stuck and cause internal
bleeding, tissue burns, a hole in the windpipe, or other serious trouble. This
may lead to permanent voice loss or damage that results in the need for a
long-term feeding or breathing tube.
Otolaryngologists Dale Amanda Tylor, MD, and Seth Pransky, MD, say the need
for an immediate diagnosis and prompt treatment is "crucial" when it comes to
preventing long-lasting damage. They believe that parents, caregivers, and
doctors need to be much better educated about the dangers of ingesting button
batteries. The researchers recommend continuing education for doctors and
improved packaging of the batteries.
The team's findings are based on 10 years of pediatric hospital case studies
and related literature.
If someone has swallowed a button battery or placed one in the ear ore nose,
immediately call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333
(you can call collect) or the National Poison Control Center at
800-222-1222. The number is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
SOURCES:News release, American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck
Surgery.American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery Foundation
(AAO-HNSF) annual meeting & OTO EXPO, San Diego, Oct. 3, 2009.National Capital Poison Center web site: "Prevent Poisonings."
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