Household accidents happen every day, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control are warning parents of small children of the dangers of tiny batteries. In particular, tiny button size batteries, which have been responsible for at least 40,000 emergency room visits of children 13 and under in the last decade. At least 14 small children, ages 7 months to three years, have died from swallowing the batteries.
Battery consumption symptoms involve vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea, respiratory distress and dysphagia or difficulty swallowing. This makes it especially hard to diagnose what the problem is, especially if the caregiver didn’t see the child consume the battery.
What makes the small items so dangerous, however, is that in just two hours time they can cause serious burns from the chemical hydroxide. They can also leak a corrosive chemical called alkaline electrolyte. Researchers identified the 3-volt lithium, coin-size batteries that are less than or equal to 20 mm as the most common culprit.
Toys that are designed for young children are required to have battery compartments that are inaccessible, but children have a way of getting their hands on items that are not made for their tiny hands. Items made for adult use are not required to have screwed down or locking battery compartments.
Batteries are not toys and are certainly not safe for human consumption, but they are shiny and smooth, and young children may find them very appealing.
Parents and caregivers are ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of the children in their care, but sometimes accidents do happen. Keep all batteries away from young children, and if you are aware of button-type batteries in any of the small electronic devices in your home, be sure to keep them away from tiny fingers.
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