Tiny Batteries Can Cause Big Problems for Young Children

MONDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Parents beware: It's not unusual for children to ingest the "button" batteries that power everything from wristwatches to cameras, a new study warns.

Some kids swallow the batteries, while others stick them up their nose, researchers found after monitoring cases at a pediatric hospital over a 10-year period and checking case reports from elsewhere.

But, the study authors pointed out, parents and health-care providers often aren't aware of the dangers posed by these miniature disc batteries.

Button batteries, which are about the size of a coin or smaller, power a variety of devices, including hearing aids, calculators, small toys and musical greeting cards, according to information in a news release from the American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.

An estimated 3,000 people of all ages accidentally ingest the batteries each year in the United States. About two-thirds of the cases involve children under age 5, with 1- and 2-year-olds at highest risk, the researchers noted.

In the most severe cases, serious consequences can develop, such as vocal paralysis, the need for throat and gastrointestinal tubes, and perforation of nasal passages, according to the study authors.

The experts say it's vital for physicians to promptly identify and treat ingestion of button batteries. They also call for better packaging and markings on button batteries.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, ingested batteries can cause a variety of symptoms, including abdominal pain, chest pain and vomiting.

The study findings were scheduled to be presented by Dr. Dale Amanda Tylor of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn., and Dr. Seth Pransky of San Diego, at the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery Foundation annual meeting, held Oct. 4 to 7 in San Diego.

More information

To learn more about battery ingestion, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, news release, Oct. 4, 2009

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