Public safety officials are warning that coin-style lithium batteries -- found in items ranging from singing greeting cards to remote-controlled electronics devices -- can pose a hazard for young children.
Because these devices are not designed for children, the battery compartments can be easy to open, increasing the risk that small children may get hold of them and swallow them. The batteries, if ingested, can cause serious disabilities or death, according to a news release from the Roseville Fire Department and Safe Kids Placer County.
In 2010, more than 3,400 cases of people swallowing button-style batteries were reported in the United States, and the number of cases resulting in serious injury or death to children has more than quadrupled in the past five years, officials said. The most serious cases have been associated with 20 mm diameter batteries, about the size of a nickel, because they can easily lodge in a small child's throat. All fatalities and 85 percent of major injuries were among children age 4 and younger, according to the news release.
Officials warn that when a battery lodges in a child's throat, saliva triggers an electrical current. This triggers a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours. Once the burning reaction begins, it can continue even after the battery is removed.
Parents and caregivers are advised to keep battery-controlled devices and loose batteries out of children's sight and reach.
If a child is believed to have swallowed a coin-type battery, public safety officials advise:
Immediately go to an emergency room and tell medical personnel that the child may have swallowed a battery.
If possible, provide medical personnel with the identification number on the battery's package.
Do not let the child eat or drink until a chest X-ray can determine whether a battery is present.
Do no induce vomiting.