BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Nationwide, nearly 2,500 children each year require emergency medical care after swallowing button batteries, according to a 2018 article written for Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health (OLOLCH).
Elizabeth McDonough, a pediatric gastroenterologist with OLOLCH, says she treats at least one patient per month who has swallowed tiny magnets or batteries.
“They can cause so many complications, including death,” said McDonough.
It’s why McDonough and other doctors urge parents to take note of the dangers tiny magnets and batteries present to teens and young children.
Curiosity is often enough to get younger kids to put something dangerous in their mouth, especially miniature batteries found in common objects, including remote controls, thermometers, toys and games, hearing aids, calculators, bathroom scales, key fobs, holiday ornaments and cameras.
McDonough says miniature batteries pose a threat when ingested because they can quickly erode a child’s esophagus lining.
However, it’s teens that most often run into problems when they use miniature magnets. The magnets are used as fake piercings and accidentally swallowed.
If a child or teen accidentally ingests more than one, the surprisingly powerful magnets can spontaneously slam together with enough force to cause serious, even life-threatening damage to the digestive tract.
In addition to warning children not to put anything except food in their mouths, McDonough recommends the following tips:
- Keep small magnets and products containing them away from young children.
- Keep track of and monitor loose magnets in your home.
- Avoid purchasing magnets sold in large sets, such as 100 or more. It makes it difficult to spot if a few magnets are missing.
- Talk to your older children and teens about the dangers associated with using magnets as fake piercings in their mouths or noses.
How miniature batteries impact the body
- Symptoms can be virtually absent or similar to those of a common infection, making diagnosis difficult.
- Button batteries in the nose or ear canal can cause drainage or pain, which is not unique to button batteries.
- Batteries lodged in the nose can damage tissues or even cause holes.
- In the ear canal, they can cause hearing loss, holes in the eardrum, and paralysis of facial nerves.
- Elsewhere in the body, button batteries’ electric current leads to rapid and significant tissue damage, even within two hours.
How miniature magnets impact the body
- Abdominal pain, vomiting and fever are common. However, because they’re so common and not usually caused by ingested objects, you may not suspect the real cause right away.
- Delaying treatment for swallowed magnets or batteries can lead to severe damage of the stomach, intestines and digestive tract—even death.
Contact your pediatrician or nearest emergency department immediately if you suspect your child has swallowed or been injured by a magnet or button battery.