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Report Shows Spike in ER Visits from Children Swallowing Batteries

Batteries, especially coin-sized button batteries, can be found in most U.S. homes in electronic games, remote controls, watches and other common devices. Small, shiny and appealing to children, button batteries can cause serious injuries if ingested,according to a study in the June 2012 issue of Pediatrics. 

There were roughly 66,000 emergency department visits by children under age 18 years associated with batteries during the 20-year study period.

Children sought emergency evaluation for batteries placed in the mouth, ear or nose, but most frequently by batteries that were swallowed, especially among children aged 5 years or younger.

Button batteries accounted for 84 percent of all battery-related ingestions among children younger than 18 years of age.

The number of emergency visits for button battery ingestion doubled during the study period. Ingestion of button batteries is dangerous because these smaller batteries can lodge easily in the esophagus and can lead to severe injuries and even death in less than two hours.

Because the number of battery-related emergency department visits is increasing, study authors recommend that prevention efforts be increased, and should focus on younger children.

Child caregivers should make sure that the battery compartments of all electronic items are taped shut and loose batteries are always stored out of children’s reach.

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