As you can imagine, as someone who regularly analyzes and reports on disasters of every kind, my mind is never far from things that could harm my children. Though the types of events I typically include are well-publicized, the real dangers for children tend to be things closer to home, that one might reasonably consider harmless.
Even after our blog about the dangers of children swallowing batteries (regarding a study that said a child in the US visits an emergency room every 3 hours for issues involving a battery and that 84% of these are button batteries), I didn’t really get it. Sure, swallowing anything is bad, and batteries have nasty chemicals in them. But it wasn’t until I read the story of Emmett Rauch that I really got how bad these issues could be.
When Emmett was one, he swallowed a button battery. His parents could tell that something wasn’t right, and Emmett was diagnosed with a cold, then croup. Luckily at a pediatrician visit 3 days after he swallowed the battery, the pediatrician had second thoughts and sent Emmett to the ER for an x-ray. Once the button battery was discovered lodged in his esophagus, the rush to treat him began. Emmett would receive 65 surgeries over the next four-and-a-half years to rebuild his esophagus and vocal chords.
Amazingly, Emmett is a survivor. He’s one of the lucky ones. There have been 15 deaths associated with small batteries over the last 6 years. Emmett’s mother, Karla Rauch, is now an activist for button battery ingestion awareness. The issues resulting in deaths and injuries to children (primarily under the age of 5) regarding button batteries are as follows:
Chemical reaction caused by batteries in the esophagus: Batteries (even “dead” ones) contain chemicals that create current. The moistness of the esophagus can cause a chemical reaction that can burn holes in the tissue.
Accessibility of button batteries: Kids like shiny things and they like to put things in their mouth. The first line of defense is preventing access to small batteries. Here’s how:
– Keep loose batteries out of reach of children
– Ensure battery compartments on products are secured
– Buy products with battery compartments that require a tool to open if possible
– Use duct tape to secure products with batteries that don’t require a tool
Difficulty of diagnosis – at home: Because the batteries are so small, kids will likely still be able to breathe after swallowing them, limiting parent’s ability to figure out that they’ve swallowed something they shouldn’t. Because of the ubiquity of small batteries, parents may not realize they’re missing.
Difficulty of diagnosis – at the hospital: An x-ray is required to determine that a child has swallowed a battery. An x-ray may not be called for if a doctor thinks (as is common) that the coughing or apparent throat damage is due to another sickness. Even though button batteries have been around for a while, they’re still not a risk that is very apparent to most people. So, if you think there is a possibility your child may have swallowed a battery, act quickly:
– Seek immediate medical attention if you believe a battery has been swallowed
– Do not let the child eat or drink
– Do not induce vomiting
– Tell the medical staff it may be a small battery
– If possible, provide information on the battery
To view an overview of this issue and solutions, please click on “Download PDF” above. Thanks to Karla Rauch for sharing her story. To learn more, see www.emmettsfight.com.