What to do if child swallows lithium button battery: Video highlights the importance of spring cleaning

The Spring Cleaning That Could Save Your Child’s Life: Chilling video reveals the potentially deadly effects of a small object you likely have around the home

  • Terrifying video shows devastating effects of swallowing lithium button battery
  • It illustrates how they begin to burn internally, causing lifelong injury or death
  • The small, shiny batteries are used in TV remote controls, calculators and scales
  • More than 20 Australian children are hospitalized every week for battery choking

A chilling video has revealed the devastating effects of swallowing a lithium button battery – and what parents can do to save a child’s life.

The infographic illustrates how these batteries begin to burn just 30 minutes after ingestion through the esophagus, causing lifelong injury and in some cases death.

If your little one has swallowed a button battery, experts say you should go to the emergency room immediately, without letting the child eat or drink and—if possible—provide the medical staff with the battery pack’s serial number.

They say the worst thing you can do is force your child to vomit as it can cause even more damage to the throat and internals.

This terrifying time-lapse experiment involving a battery and a chicken fillet shows what a single button battery can do if a child swallows it - after 30 minutes (pictured)

That's the terrifying damage after four hours

This terrifying time-lapse experiment involving a battery and a chicken fillet shows what just a button battery can do when a child swallows it – after 30 minutes (left) and four hours (right)

The small, shiny batteries are commonplace in Australian homes and are used in devices such as TV remotes, clocks, calculators and kitchen scales.

More than 20 Australian children are hospitalized each week after accidentally swallowing batteries.

However, in 2021 battery brand Duracell launched coin batteries covered in a non-toxic coating of Bitrex – the world’s most bitter substance.

The transparent film is said to elicit an “instinctive response” that causes children to spit out the battery when they put it in their mouth.

What to do if your child swallows a battery?

* Go to emergency immediately. Tell the doctors you suspect your child swallowed a battery and it was the size of a coin.

* If possible, provide the medical team with the identification number located on the battery pack.

* Do not let the child eat or drink until an x-ray can determine if a battery is present.

* Do not induce vomiting.

Source: Battery controlled

Leading cardiac surgeon Dr. Nikki Stamp previously called on parents to be aware of the dangers lurking in front of everyone at home.

dr Stamp, who operated on a child who swallowed a lithium battery, said more Australians need to be aware of the dangers of having the items lying around.

“It’s so important that we continue to look for methods that can reduce the risk of ingestion, in addition to keeping these batteries and devices that contain lithium button cells away from children,” she added.

CPR Kids founding director Sarah Hunstead agrees, saying she knows many families who aren’t even aware of the risks.

“Children are naturally curious and putting everything in their mouths is a normal part of their development,” Ms. Hunstead said.

“It is therefore extremely important to ensure that lithium coin cells are kept away from small children.”

Back in 2019, Ms Hunstead demonstrated the dangers of lithium batteries with an experiment on a chicken fillet.

After placing a battery in the flesh, she closely monitored the progress over the ensuing hours and noticed that after about 30 minutes a slight sting had started.

By the time four hours had passed, the burn marks were clearer and more pervasive.

Those most at risk are under the age of four, and currently around 20 children with injuries come to the emergency room each week (stock image)

Those most at risk are under the age of four, and currently around 20 children with injuries come to the emergency room each week (stock image)

The effect on the chicken meat mirrors what happens in a child’s body.

Battery Controlled reports that when a coin-sized lithium button battery gets stuck in a child’s throat, “saliva triggers an electrical current” that sets off a chemical reaction that can “severely” burn the esophagus in as little as two hours.

“If this has happened to your child, they will likely start coughing, drooling or complaining of being unwell,” the website reads.

Ms Hunstead’s experiment quickly sparked stunned reactions after it was shared online, with some horrified but grateful to have been educated on the issue.

“My son swallowed one when he was three, [it was] the size of a 10c coin,” one person wrote.

“The coin stayed in him the next day until we were sent to Children’s Hospital. It had burned his stomach lining and his esophagus was going to hell. Well mothers, I don’t leave batteries in the house.’

Another added, “I don’t understand why they haven’t stopped putting button batteries in children’s toys.”

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Bradford Betz

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