Beware the button

Categories: Children's Health  /  Emergency care  /  News

A lithium button battery is balanced on a person's thumb with an isolated background

They’re in all sorts of electronic gadgets and toys. The problem starts when your toddler grabs hold of one.

Some call them button batteries because of their resemblance to buttons. But they’re also health hazards if a young child swallows them. The large 3-volt lithium batteries are especially dangerous because they react with saliva to generate a chemical reaction that can cause serious damage to tissues and even death.

“Because it is a battery, the circuit can be completed,” Dr. Tim McEvoy, an emergency medicine physician at University Health System, said in an interview on KSAT’s SA Live program. “ It can create a charge and then create an injury that can eat through tissues in the nose, eat through the esophagus into the chest, and in rare cases, can even be deadly.”

Dr. McEvoy recommends batteries be stored out of children’s reach, and that parents make sure that a device’s battery compartment is securely closed and requires a tool such as a screwdriver to open.

If you suspect your child might have swallowed one of these button batteries, seek medical help quickly. An X-ray is needed to correctly diagnose the problem.

See the complete KSAT interview here.

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