HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – It’s that time of year when battery operated gifts will be on the top of many lists, but the type of battery that fuels the product can cause harm.
Toddler Uriah Clark is, like most kids his age, inquisitive and curious. But his mother never thought that would cause him harm.
“That was the most scariest experience a mother could go through, it was very hard,” she said, recalling what happened to her son in April.
Uriah suddenly started wheezing, but doctors said it was just his asthma and told his mother to give him the basic medications.
After days of treating her son, Darling Clark became concerned and asked her husband to take him to the hospital.
“And within like an hour he calls me and said, ‘They did an x-ray and they found something in his throat,’ and they wanted to perform emergency surgery,” she said.
What doctors found was a “button battery,” a small disc that comes in various dimensions and widths and powers everything from watches to remote controls, key fobs, decorative objects, toys, hearing aids and more.
“A lot of children, especially under the age of 5, explore the world with their mouths, so if they find a button battery, they can’t distinguish it from a coin, a toy or something else, so often they’ll put it in their mouth and in doing so that can lead to significant injuries for that child,” said Dr. Tamar Levene, a pediatric surgeon with Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.
Levene said the chemicals in the battery mix with internal fluids, creating a corrosive effect that damages the throat, esophagus and stomach.
“It can run through the digestive tract but what we worry about most especially with larger button batteries is that they can become lodged in one of those organs,” Levene said.
Surgery to remove the batteries is tricky and sometimes the damage cannot be undone.
“We do see children who come in that have problems that are not correctable and make them very, very sick and can die from button battery ingestion,” Levene said.
Clark feels fortunate that her son didn’t suffer any lasting effects.
“They told us with some kids it does so much damage they’re unable to eat a regular diet but he recovered fast, very fast,” she said.
Levene said if you believe your child may have swallowed a button battery it’s vital to get them to an ER immediately.
On the way, assuming the child is older than age 1 and is not allergic to honey, a spoonful may help coat the button battery and lesson its impact.
Some button battery manufacturers are working to create products with an adverse taste so that children spit them out, but Levene warns that even a small amount inside the mouth can create damage and needs medical attention.