Button batteries considered a danger to children, companies working on ways to keep kids from swallowing them

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)– Batteries— it seems like every device we own uses them and certain kinds of small batteries, know as “button batteries,”  are considered a danger to small children.  

Now, some of those button batteries come with a way to make them less appealing to youngsters, but some experts aren’t sure if it will keep them out of the mouths of all kids.

They call them button batteries because they are the same size as a button on a men’s jacket or women’s blouse.

Their size and thinness make them appealing to device makers because they fit almost anywhere–but they are also appealing to youngsters.

It’s estimated that 3,500 button batteries are ingested annually by children annually in the United States.

Here in North Carolina, poison control sees its share of those cases.

“Over last few years we’re averaging about 80 calls a year involving button battery ingestion,’ said Dr. Anna Dulaney. “Most of the cases do involve children are  under the age of 6.”

Button batteries are ubiquitous, they’re in all kinds of devices around the house and their use is growing exponentially.  

In an effort to try and combat the swallowing of those batteries, Duracell has come up with a bitter tasting non-toxic coating.

“I’ve tried it, its very bitter,” said  pediatrician and author Dr. Jen Trachetenberg. “I can tell you, you don’t want to keep that in your mouth at all.

Poison control experts say although the coating is a good idea, it’s not fail safe.

“Some children taste things that taste bad and will put it away and not eat something,” said Dulaney. “But, there are other small children that will willingly eat things that taste bad.”

Button batteries are just the same size as a child’s esophagus.

“Anything little is attractive,” said Trachetenberg. “Kids love to play and put things in their mouths.”

A button battery stuck in an esophagus is a life threatening medical emergency.

“When a battery gets stuck in moist tissue it allows it to conduct a current,” said Dulaney. “When a current conducts in moist tissue it causes burns.”

Those burns can happen in as little as two hours.

Symptoms of battery ingestion include:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing

“Don’t leave loose batteries around and keep them securely fastened and locked away in cabinets where children can’t reach them,” said Trachetenberg.

“When changing out batteries on devices, don’t allow children to be present because they mimic adult behavior and if they see you doing something they are likely to do the same thing,” said Dulaney.

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