INDIANAPOLIS — At least one pediatric emergency department in Indianapolis is seeing an increase when it comes to button battery injuries. About two years ago, Mahziere Williams was a patient at Riley Hospital for Children after swallowing a button battery.
“I was shocked because I didn’t know where he got it from,” Montez Williams, Mahziere’s dad, said.
Mahziere found the battery on the floor and swallowed it.
“He was doing some unusual crying. We thought it was teething,” Williams said.
In the ER, an X-Ray confirmed the dime-sized battery was stuck in the toddler’s throat.
Doctors successfully removed it, but it left behind burns in Mahziere’s esophagus after it began to corrode.
“That was never my worry, my kid swallowing stuff and getting stuck. I was worried about him breaking bones and stuff like that,” Williams said.
Riley Hospital for Children’s emergency department saw more than double the number of children come in after swallowing a battery button in 2021 compared to five years earlier.
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“You need to get these button batteries out really quickly. You have a matter of a few hours sometimes,” Dr. Brian Gray, Pediatric General Thoracic and Trauma Surgeon at Riley Hospital for Children, said.
Due to the seriousness of complications, button battery ingestions are triaged the same as a gunshot wound.
“If you treat these patients like an acutely injured trauma patient, you get into the operating room a lot faster and you can actually save them and you can save some bad injuries. And you can actually get people out of the hospital a lot faster,” Dr. Gray said.
If you are unsure if your child swallowed a button battery, here are signs to look out for:
- changes in behavior,
- avoiding eating and drinking
- gurgling, meaning it is hard for a child to swallow saliva
“I think that the why is we've seen this increase is that button batteries are just a lot more prevalent. You know, we have a lot more small electronic devices in our houses, whether it's toys or remote controls,” Dr. Gray said.
While Mahziere does not remember the ordeal, his dad certainly does.
“Some parents wouldn’t be thinking about it so they should be aware of it and looking out for it,” Williams said.
Companies are also trying to prevent kids from swallowing button batteries in the first place. In 2020, Duracell began putting a bitter coating on lithium coin batteries as a new child safety feature.
One tip for parents – if you know or suspect your child swallowed a button battery, doctors say studies show giving the child a teaspoon of honey every 10 minutes will not only help coat the battery, but also prevent corroding. Of course, this is not in place of going to the hospital. Dr. Gray suggests doing this on the way to the hospital.