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Doctors at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital warn of the dangers of swallowed button batteries

Monday, July 27, 2015

NEW HAVEN, CT (July 27, 2015) — Doctors at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital (YNHCH) are warning parents and caregivers of young children to play close attention to the dangers of a national phenomenon posed by the ingestion of small batteries that resemble buttons or coins. 

These button batteries can cause very serious injuries and, in some cases, death in children. When swallowed, these small batteries can release an electric current that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours.

"As children explore the world around them, they may mouth or even swallow non-food objects, ranging from lead-containing paint chips to coins and small batteries," said Carl Baum, attending physician, Yale New Haven Children's Hospital Emergency Department and an expert in the field of pediatric toxicology. "Button batteries, which are particularly attractive to children, may be swallowed and pass through the gastrointestinal tract without incident, but can present a serious hazard when lodged in the esophagus. Although these retained button batteries rarely leak their chemical contents, they continue to generate an electrical charge that may cause injury and even perforation of the esophagus."

Button batteries can be found in consumer products in most homes. They are used to power remote controls, toys, musical greeting cards, calculators, watches and other electronics. Small children often have easy access to these devices, and many parents do not know there is a risk.

"Parents should be aware that button batteries can also be found in health products, such as hearing aids and blood glucose meters, and the battery compartments may not be child-resistant," said Dr. Baum. "These devices and their batteries should be kept out of the reach of children."

Incidents of ingesting button batteries are on the rise. More than 80 children nationwide have suffered permanent damage from injuries caused by ingesting button batteries. Fifteen children have died — 11 of them within the last six years. In 2010 alone, more than 3,400 kids swallowed button batteries. Keep your children safe and watch out for these and other hazards.

Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH), part of Yale New Haven Health, is a nationally recognized, 1,541-bed, not-for-profit hospital serving as the primary teaching hospital for the Yale School of Medicine (YSM). Founded as the fourth voluntary hospital in the U.S. in 1826, today, YNHH has two New Haven-based campuses, and also includes Yale New Haven Children's Hospital, Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and Smilow Cancer Hospital. YNHH has received Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the nation’s highest honor of nursing excellence. YNHH has a combined medical staff of about 4,500 university and community physicians practicing in more than 100 specialties.