Child Safety - Miller & Zois

Lithium Battery Dangers

Lithium batteries, also called “button batteries” can cause serious injuries or death in children. Over 2,500 of these batteries are swallowed every year in the United States. A child may be hospitalized for battery-related emergencies every three hours. These batteries are small enough to be a choking hazard for your child. They are also small and shiny, which is appealing to little children.

How common are lithium batteries?

Lithium batteries are extremely common. They are used for many household items, especially electronics. They are very easily accessible to small children, and many parents are not familiar with the risk of their child swallowing these batteries. Common household items powered by lithium batteries include the following:

·       Remote controls

·       Toys

·       Calculators

·       Hearing aids

·       Digital thermometers

·       Singing greeting cards

·       Handheld video games

·       Home medical equipment

·       Flashlights

·       Electric toothbrushes 

This is only a small list of household items that contain lithium batteries. Make sure you check your home for each of these items and more.

What happens if my child accidentally ingests a lithium battery? 

If your child accidentally ingests a lithium battery, it will get caught in their throat. The batteries can also burn your esophagus, due to saliva causing an electric current which results in a chemical reaction. They can even burn a hole in your throat, or cause death if not properly removed.

Batteries can even get caught in your child’s ears or nose

The mouth is not the only part of your child’s body that they may place batteries in. They may place it in either their nose or ears. This can also be a risk as well as it may result in symptoms such as pain or ear and nose discharge. Please do not administer either nose or ear drops until a physician evaluates your child. Nose and ear drops when mixed with a lodged battery may cause further injuries.

What kind of symptoms will my child experience from ingesting lithium batteries?

What is concerning is that the symptoms may not necessarily show up when a child initially swallows batteries. Children may still be able to breathe and act fairly normal. However, there are mild symptoms that appear as if your child has either the flu or a cold. These symptoms include coughing, drooling, or discomfort.

Lithium battery removal

Removing a battery lodged in the throat is usually painful and one may have to undergo multiple surgeries just to remove a battery. Your child may continue to experience side effects to their larynx or windpipe after the battery has been removed.

Preventative measures

You can take preventative measures to ensure that your child does not accidentally swallow lithium batteries. They include the following:

·       Make sure you search your entire home for electronics or loose batteries that may be lying around. You should also double check, as there may be more items in your home containing small batteries than you realize.

·       Keep electronics that use lithium batteries out of your child’s sight and reach.  Store them in a place that is inaccessible to your children. For instance, you could keep them in a lockable container.

·       Check to see that each household device’s battery compartment is properly secured. One way to secure the battery compartment is to use strong tape. You could also use tape to secure compartments that can be opened easily or may pop out is dropped.

·        If your child uses hearing aids, please make sure that the battery compartments are child-resistant. The lock must be activated while your child is wearing it. Do not change batteries in front of small children 

What batteries should I look out for?

Batteries you should be especially concerned about include the following:

·       Batteries the size of a penny or bigger

·       Batteries with a diameter of 20 mm, which have been known to cause the most serious problems when ingested.

·       Make sure to pay attention to the codes of different batteries. Batteries with the codes CR2032, CR2025, and CR 2016. These three are known to cause significant problems.

What should I do if I think my child ingested a battery?

If you think your child ingested a lithium battery, visit the emergency room as soon as possible. Do not let your child vomit, eat, or drink until a medical professional assesses that it is safe to do so. Even if you have the smallest suspicion, please bring them to the emergency room.

Contact the National Battery Ingestion Hotline

 Once your child receives treatment, contact the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 1-800-498-8666. They are available 24 hours and are confidential. If you can, please provide the identification number of the battery ingested. You can find this either on the battery’s package or a matching battery.