Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital have issued a warning over ‘deadly’ button batteries and the risk they pose to toddlers.
Staff have seen a worrying increases of young children swallowing the small, round batteries, often causing significant internal damage. Surgeon Kate Cross told the BBC that button batteries ‘should be treated like poison’, and urged parents to keep them out of reach of their children.
GOSH says ten years ago the incidents were rare, but they are now seeing around one child every month.
Kate Cross, consultant neonatal and paediatric surgeon at the hospital, explained the potential dangers if the batteries are ingested: ‘If the battery gets enveloped in the mucosa of the oesophagus it creates an electrical circuit and the battery starts to function, releasing an alkali which is like caustic soda, which can erode through the wall to the windpipe,’ she said.
‘If the battery is facing a different way it can burn into the aorta, a major blood vessel, and there have been cases in Britain where the child has bled to death.’
‘That is why it is important to get the message out to parents but also other health professionals because this is a time critical problem.’
18-month old Catharina Santos is just one of many children who’ve suffered as a result of this type of battery. Although they’re often used as part of children’s toys, Catharina managed to find one inside a set of bathroom scales.
Button batteries are used in many common household items, including bathroom scales
Her mother Jessika rushed her to hospital, where the battery was removed three hours later, but it had already burned through to her windpipe, and she will now need intricate surgery to repair the damage.
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‘My message to other parents is to make sure they keep any of these batteries, or the items which contain them, far away from children,’ Jessika said.
The British and Irish Portable Battery Association (BIPBA) says that it ‘takes the safety of consumers very seriously’, and notes that there are warning notices on batteries, and the packaging is child resistant.