Kids ER Visits from Batteries Increasing

Button batteries send many kids to emergency room

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The increase in electronics, computers and cell phones in homes can cause more than screen-obsessed children who don't get out enough. It also means more batteries are lying around.

These batteries can cause significant risks to children, according to a new study showing that the number of emergency room visits associated with injuries from batteries is increasing.

"Keep batteries out of reach of children."

Lead author Samantha Sharpe, BS, of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues tracked children's emergency room visits related to batteries from 1990 to 2009.

The researchers pulled data from a sample of the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System on visits to the emergency department for all types of injuries related to batteries, including swallowing them, having them in the child's mouth, putting them into their ears or putting them into their noses.

They estimated that 65,788 children under age 18 went to the ER for some kind of battery-related injury during those two decades, which come to about 3,289 visits a year.

The average age of children admitted for these injuries was 4 years old, and about 60 percent of them were boys. The most common reason for the visit was swallowing a battery, which occurred in about 76.6 percent of the cases.

The children who stuck batteries in their noses comprised about 10 percent of the visits. Another 7 percent stuck them in their mouths, and 6 percent stuck them in their ears.

About 84 percent of the hospital visits resulted from incidents involving button batteries, the small round batteries commonly used in watches, hearing aids, remote controls and many types of electronics.

The majority of the children, 92 percent, were treated and released from the emergency room department.

The rate of battery-related injuries sending children to the ER was found to be 4.6 visits per 100,000 children, but the authors found that the rate of visits increased during the time period studied.

The highest increases, they found, occurred in the last eight years of the study. There was a 32 percent jump in children under 18 who swallowed batteries from 1990 to 2009. Most of these occurred among children under 5 years old.

The authors warned that the small batteries can become lodged in children's throats, thereby causing choking or, in rare cases, leading to problems such as leakage from the battery or tissue damage.

The authors concluded that batteries pose a significant hazard to children, especially those under 5 years old.

"Primary prevention of battery exposures is critical because of the limited effectiveness of medical interventions once tissue damage has occurred," they wrote. This means there is a "need for increased prevention efforts."

The study appeared online May 14 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by a grant from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
May 13, 2012
Last Updated:
July 10, 2012