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article imageDeadly batteries: Accidents with button batteries increase Special

By Tim Sandle     Nov 10, 2016 in Health
Battery incidents are leading to serious injury and death, and are increasing in many parts of the world. In the U.S., information from the National Battery Ingestion Hotline charts a rising number of button battery injuries caused by flameless candles.
Such is the extent of the problem that for the 2014-2016 (to June) period, over 3,100 people of all ages swallowed button batteries. Of these, around 1,900 were children. With the children there were 20 fatal or major cases, each involving a child aged under six years.
Discussing the worrying statistics, Dr. Toby Litovitz, who is Executive & Medical Director of the National Capital Poison Center, said in a communication to Digital Journal: "“We pulled out all the stops after we first alerted the public and health care providers about the deadly dangers of button batteries.”
Dr. Litovitz explains that the battery industry has made some safety improvements, such as making battery packaging child-resistant. In addition, some manufacturers have ensured that battery compartments of battery powered media devices are now more secure and tamper proof. In addition, a recent publicity campaign in the U.S. has sought to raise awareness of the risks.
However, despite these good measures, the rate of accidents shows little sign of abating. The primary risk is from choking, since button-size batteries easily become lodged in the esophagus. There's a two-hour window in which batteries that are stuck in the windpipe must be removed in order to avoid serious injury. The biggest risk, and where death can occur, is from bleeding injuries.
Most accidents relate to a 20 mm lithium coin cell battery, which is the most common available. The types of devices containing these batteries (in order of the accidents associated with battery ingestion) are: remote controls, lights, and flameless candles. The latter category is the fastest growing, and now accounts for 14 percent of all injuries. To this can also be added: games and toys, bathroom scales, watches, key fobs, digital thermometers, 3-D glasses and Christmas ornaments.
Dr. Litovitz has provided the following advice to Digital Journal readers:
Prevent an ingestion. Keep batteries out of reach. Don’t let your child near household items that have accessible batteries. Keep those products out of reach, replace them with safer products, or secure the battery compartment with strong tape. Don't insert or change batteries in front of small children.
Be especially cautious with any battery or battery-powered product that contains a battery that’s the size of a penny or larger. A penny is 19 mm in diameter. The 20 mm or even larger diameter lithium coin cell causes the most serious problems when swallowed. These problem batteries can be recognized by their imprint that contains these numbers: 2032, 2025 or 2016.
Batteries are everywhere. Check remote controls, flameless candles, garage door openers, key fobs, bathroom scales, games and toys, watches, cameras, digital thermometers, hearing aids, singing or talking greeting cards or books, music players, medical equipment and meters, lights, flashing or musical accessories or shoes, bedwetting monitors, dog shock collars, keychains, guitar tuners and more!
Ingestion of a battery is a medical emergency. If a child swallows a battery, don’t delay. Go to the emergency room right away to get an x-ray to make sure the battery is not stuck in the child’s esophagus. It can be stuck even if there are no symptoms. And if a battery is lodged in the esophagus, it MUST come out within two hours to prevent devastating, even fatal, consequences.
Those in the U.S. can report cases or seek advice from the National Battery Ingestion Hotline (202-625-3333).
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