Important information from the Hopewell Township Health Department and the New Jersey Poison Control Center.
Some common household items may be small, but they pose a sizable injury risk for crawling infants and young children. Seemingly harmless items like watches, toys, electronics, key fobs, hearing aids, and singing greeting cards contain “bite-sized” batteries that can cause serious, even deadly injuries if swallowed or placed in the nose or ear. Like many other small items, these batteries, also called button or coin batteries, are a choking hazard.
“Most parents and caregivers are unaware that the toys and everyday items their young children come in contact with, contain these potentially dangerous coin-shaped batteries,” says Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Department of Emergency Medicine. “It does not take very long for a battery to begin to cause serious injury once it gets stuck inside the body; internal chemical burns can result quickly, producing serious, even permanent damage to the esophagus and other internal organs.”
So far this year, the New Jersey Poison Control Center has referred 11 children to hospital emergency departments for swallowing button batteries. Along with disc batteries, high-powered magnet toys also pose serious risk. These magnets may also cause devastating, internal damage if swallowed. To date, the state’s poison control center has consulted on 24 cases where children were exposed to these powerful magnets.
“Not only are magnets a choking hazard, but if two or more magnets are swallowed together, they can attract one another inside the body, causing a blockage or twist in the intestines. A single magnet may pass through just fine, but two or more is asking for serious trouble,” says Calello. It is important to take notice of home products that are missing these small batteries or magnets. This could be the first indication that a young child or pet has swallowed such items.
Pets are curious just like young children. It’s easy for them to swallow a button battery or magnet from an item left around the home. Pets can suffer the same serious, even fatal health consequences. If you think your pet has swallowed a battery or magnet, call your veterinarian or local animal hospital immediately. Ingesting these items is a medical emergency.
“Whether you see your child swallow any of these items or suspect he or she did; immediate medical attention is required,” says Calello. “Do not wait for symptoms to develop – irreversible damage may have occurred by the time signs appear. This was the case a few years ago in New Jersey when a young child died after ingesting a button battery.”
It’s far easier to prevent a tragedy than to treat one. Check the battery compartments of common household items; if the compartments are not secured by screws, prevent your child or pet from having access to those products. The same goes for products with high-powered magnets. “Assuming “dead” batteries cannot cause harm puts our children and pets at risk for these potentially life-threatening exposures. Dead batteries still have enough charge to burn through tissue, causing considerable damage when swallowed,” says Calello.
For further information, read Dr. Calello’s interview with WebMD.
Exposure to coin-sized batteries or high-powdered magnets is a medical emergency. Call your local poison control center right away for treatment advice at 1-800-222-1222. Poison control centers are staffed by healthcare professionals 24/7. If someone is unconscious, not breathing, hard to wake up, or having a seizure, immediately call 9-1-1.
New Jersey residents can contact the NJ Poison Control Center: Call 1-800-222-1222; Text 973-339-0702; Chat via website. Stay connected on social: Facebook Twitter.
The NJ Poison Control Center is committed to protecting and improving the health of New Jersey’s residents by reducing the impact of poison and drug exposures.