A child swallowed a button battery: why it’s vital to act quickly

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Swallowing a button cell battery by a child under 5 years of age can be fatal.
Swallowing a button cell battery by a child under 5 years of age can be fatal. (©Adobe Stock)

They are found in musical books, certain toys, watches and even remote controls. The button cell batteries, include round and flat stacks, are commonplace. But in the hands of young children, they can be a potentially fatal risk if ingested.

This is why, for several years, the health authorities have been warning about the dangers involved. However, and despite these preventive campaigns, “there is an increase in France in cases of ingestion of large diameter batteries”, notes the High Authority for Health.

How to explain it? Maybe due to security and cost issue. “For example, there are a lot of people who buy their button cell batteries on the Internet because it’s cheaper than in stores.

But those purchased by hand have special packaging that is difficult, especially for children, to undo, ”says Magali Labadie, toxicologist doctor at the poison control center of the Bordeaux University Hospital, at atctu.fr

What are the risks ?

Choking, poisoning, perforation, hemorrhage… The risks associated with this domestic accident are as numerous as they are serious, as the HAS points out:

Ingested (button batteries, Editor’s note), they present a potentially fatal risk due to their toxicity, mainly linked to the production of very alkaline hydroxide ions which can cause very deep chemical burns.

High Authority of Health

The population most affected? The children under five. Because for this age group, the morphology is not the same and the diameter of the esophagus is smaller: “swallowing a battery 15 millimeters in diameter does not have the same consequences in adults as in children. ‘child’.

A battery lodged in the esophagus of a child is all the more dangerous as it can burn this part of the body and reach the aorta artery which is located just behind. ” In five minutes, the child can die“.

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In 2018, moreover, the little Loëvann, 2 years old, died after swallowing a lithium battery from a “hand spinner”, reported Lille News.

Every minute counts

When this accident occurs, it is necessary toact fast especially since the situation can worsen beyond two hours.

If until now, “the health professionals alone assessed the situation of each child”, the recommendations, drawn up by HAS and STC (Society of clinical toxicology), aim to leave no event to chance and to have no dead time as soon as the child is taken into care.

This advice, intended for health professionals, translates into “decision trees which summarize all of the care and which allow it to be viewed at a glance”.

“We have to assess everything. The age of the child, if the battery is in the esophagus or in the stomach, what supervision should be applied…” enumerates Magalie Labadie.

The two organizations point out that: “the realization of a chest X-ray is the reference examination to confirm the ingestion of a battery and to determine its location”.

Here is an example of a recommendation in the event of battery ingestion in front of a witness.
Here is an example of a recommendation in the event of battery ingestion in front of a witness. (©Society of Clinical Toxicology)

The awareness of public authorities

The medical profession is not the only one to have a role to play. The public authorities, too, must, according to the HAS and the STC, get involved.

How? ‘Or’ What ? First in working with industry leaders to “promote the manufacture and use of button cell batteries with a diameter of less than 15 millimeters”.

But not only. Securing packaging, the batteries themselves and the systematic protection of batteries in toys with a screw must give rise to concrete actions.

What should I do if my child has swallowed a button battery?

In the event that a child has swallowed this type of battery, it is therefore necessary to act quickly. Especially since “The risk is increased if the battery is greater than or equal to 15 mm in diameter and when the child is 5 years old or less”, warns the HAS.

First, it is recommended to leave the child fasting and do not try to make him vomit for the purpose of expiating this object. Then call 15 or the poison control centre.

Also, it is strongly advised to take the packaging or the object in which the battery was in order to better guide the medical profession.

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