Parents, make sure you watch your child closely while playing with toys with batteries. Read this true story of when a swallowed battery burns hole in a toddler’s lung, nearly killing her.
In this article, you’ll read:
- Real story – swallowed battery burns a hole in toddler’s lung
- Battery poisoning symptoms
- What to do if your child swallows a battery
Moms, beware of battery-operated toys. For it can be very dangerous if the battery ever falls into the wrong hands – your child’s – and accidentally swallows it.
Story – swallowed battery burns a hole in toddler’s lung
In 2019, BBC News, in the article, “Christmas: Beware ‘lethal’ button batteries in toys” reported about an incident where a child accidentally swallowed a small, button-shaped battery, which almost cost her her life.
English mother Clare Skill did not know at first what was happening. She had left her daughter Sophie in the living room to play, and the next time she saw her daughter she was crying hysterically.
“She was crying excessively like I had never heard before, and she was holding the back of her neck,” she said.
When Sophie did not stop, Clare immediately knew something had gone wrong, that her daughter had swallowed something. So they rushed her to the hospital, where an X-ray revealed a small lithium battery inside Sophie.
Within two hours, the acid inside the battery had burned through her esophagus and then it burned through her lung as well. Her lung had deflated, allowing fluids inside.
The doctors were able to remove the battery, but because her food pipe was swollen, they did not detect the hole in the lung.
“After a week, she had a CT scan and it showed the hole wasn’t healing and was in fact getting bigger because the acid was continuing to corrode her esophagus,” said Clare.
Sophie was put under general anesthetic at least eight times during her eight weeks in hospital, three of those were spent in the ICU.
To cover the hole, the doctors took tissue from Sophie’s side to allow it to heal. Two months later, after her throat healed, Sophie was allowed to leave the hospital. But now she has to take an alkaline tablet to make sure her road to recovery is smooth.
The battery came from a pack the full-time mother had bought because her husband, Wayne Skill, needed to replace a battery in his car fob.
“She’s obviously managed to get hold of one in the packet, it was brand new and hadn’t been used,” said Clare.
Image from Pexels
As our babies learn to explore, it can be possible for them to get a hold of things that although looks harmless, can be catastrophic once ingested.
One of the most hazardous items that they can get from their toys are the small batteries. You can find these tiny batteries on light-up toys, household gadgets, watches and even automatic car keys. They’re just everywhere.
These shiny, silver button or coin batteries can be very attractive to young children. And in their nature, babies and young toddlers like to put everything in their mouth.
Battery poisoning is very dangerous, and common in young children. It is because once swallowed, the saliva in the body will react with the battery, creating caustic chemicals.
These tiny batteries contain heavy metals such as zinc, mercury, silver, nickel, cadmium, and lithium. They also contain concentrated solutions of caustic electrolytes, usually potassium or sodium hydroxide.
According to the BBC article, doctors say Sophie Skill’s case was not unique – in fact, in the United Kingdom, about two children a year die from swallowing batteries.
So how will you know if your child accidentally swallowed a battery? Here are the following battery poisoning symptoms you can watch out for.
Battery poisoning symptoms
- Retching (gagging)
- Abdominal pain
- Low-grade fever
- Persistent drooling
- Difficulty breathing if the battery is blocking the airway
- Rash from nickel metal allergy
- Dark or bloody stools
What to do if child swallows battery
The moment you suspect that your child has accidentally swallowed a battery, call her pediatrician and bring her to the hospital right away as time is very much of the essence in these cases. Even dead or flat batteries can still be dangerous and contain enough electrical charge to badly injure a child.
If the child cannot vomit or spit the battery that was ingested, bring the device where the battery came from. It is important so that the poison control can calculate the possible damage on your child’s lung or esophagus.
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How to prevent battery poisoning in children
Parents should take the story above as a cautionary tale to be more careful when handing their children battery-operated toys or gadgets. Ashley Martin, from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, warns parents to:
- Make sure that toys and other products using button batteries, such as small electronic devices, have lockable battery compartments.
- Beware of items such as musical greeting cards, flameless candles and remote controls as the battery compartments may not be lockable.
- Ensure that spare batteries are stored out of reach of children, and used batteries are disposed of correctly. Don’t leave any used batteries lying around.
- When changing batteries, never hold batteries in the mouth. You may accidentally swallow them, or your toddler might see you doing this and get the wrong idea.
“For toddlers, button batteries can look like sweets.We want to ensure parents are aware of the dangers of these potentially lethal batteries.
The best way to protect children is simply by keeping batteries out of reach for children, and ensure that any toys that require the batteries are firmly locked into the battery compartment,” said Stephen Powis, NHS England Medical Director.
Small children are tactile beings; they simply want to hold things, and then put them in their mouths. There’s not much we can do about that.
What we can do is to minimize the things that they get in contact with, especially when they start crawling, at which point almost everything can be a choking hazard. This is why it is very important to babyproof or toddler-proof your home.
Parents, make sure you keep an eye out for these things: Coins, marbles, toys with small parts, toys that can be compressed to fit entirely into a child’s mouth, pen or marker caps, small balls, button batteries, hair barrettes and beads.
Before they begin to crawl, get down to your child’s level and look for things that could be picked up, then check in and under furniture cushions. Also, make sure your children’s toys are always safely put away. Store toys for younger children separate from those for older children.
Babyproofing your home may be a tedious task, but it’s the best way to keep your child safe, away from accidents and other potential harm.
Image from Freepik
BBC, EMedicine Health