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article imageToronto toddler's ordeal highlights risks of lithium batteries

By Karen Graham     Feb 16, 2016 in Health
Ontario - A Toronto child started coughing two weeks ago, and after several trips to different doctors, an x-ray showed a small round object lodged in her esophagus. The little girl was lucky because the lithium battery was removed.
Little Katie Smith, 2, was very fortunate that her parents were so persistent in seeking medical help for their daughter.
Her parents thought Katie may have choked on a cracker, but she seemed to be breathing all right. They monitored her through the night, but mom and dad noticed the coughing didn't seem to be letting up.
Three doctors told them she probably had the flu. However, Katie wasn't exhibiting any other flu symptoms, so the worried parents sought out another doctor who ordered x-rays, reports CTV News Canada. The x-ray showed a small object stuck in Katie's esophagus.
This story has a happy ending because Katie was rushed by ambulance to Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children where the offending object was removed. It was a small, circular lithium battery, and it had started to corrode. Katie's mother, Christina Smith said, "It was just so upsetting. We just felt so let down that this wasn't caught sooner."
Every year across the world, young children, fascinated by the bright, shiny little circular objects, called "button batteries," do what toddlers do best, they stick the little objects in their mouth. Since 2006, In Canada, an average of 65 emergency room visits per year has been associated with button batteries. Of these incidents, 70 percent were ingestion incidents. In the United States, the figures for ingesting the little batteries is about 3,000 incidents per year.
Lithium batteries are used in a number of everyday objects, from hearing aids to calculators, remote controls, watches, key fobs and flameless candles. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says the button batteries may be mistaken by older adults for pills, so it's not just small children we need to be concerned about.
The seriousness of this issue cannot be discussed enough because the number of incidents where children ingest button batteries has quadrupled over the last decade. Parents need to be aware of the risk of serious injury, and even death that can result from ingesting these batteries.
Choking on a lithium battery is not the biggest risk. It the burning inside. When swallowed, saliva triggers an electrical current, leading to the start of a chemical reaction that can cause damage in as short a time as two hours. Symptoms of button battery ingestion, such as coughing or drooling may be similar to symptoms of other childhood illnesses, such as the flu, in Katie's case.
Fox News reported that three days after Christmas last year, 2-year-old Brianna Florer, of Jay, Oklahoma, died after ingesting a button battery six days previously. While there are horror stories of parents losing young children because of these little batteries, it is better to focus on how to prevent future accidents.
The website, SafeKids.org recommends several things parents can do to protect children from ingesting batteries accidentally:
1. Search your home for any gadgets that may contain button batteries.
2. Put button battery-powered devices out of sight and reach of children. Store loose batteries in a safe place, away from curious toddlers.
3. If you need help, call your family physician.
4. Spread the word about lithium battery safety.
More about lithium batteries, button batteries, children swallowing, corrosive, chemical burns
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