It’s a trend emergency room staff have noticed but parents haven’t: The number of kids under six needing medical help for swallowing objects they shouldn’t has gone up significantly in the last two decades. Luckily, there’s a lot parents can do to keep their kids safe and bring this number back down.
A new study to be published in the journal Pediatrics found that since 1995 the number of children swallowing things like batteries, jewelry and toys has gone from 22,000 in 1995 to 43,000 in 2015.
But there’s no need to panic. Most kids (90%) who swallow some random thing are sent home from the ER without needing to be hospitalized. It all depends on what they swallow.
Coins are the big one, representing a whopping 62% of such cases, but battery ingestion is on the rise. Batteries only represent about 7% of the things kids end up in the ER for swallowing, but in the last two decades, these incidents have increased by 150% (probably because we have a lot more button batteries around our homes than we did in 1995).
The problem with button batteries
These little tiny batteries are found in all kinds of stuff, like key fobs, remotes, digital thermometers, toys and even those singing birthday cards. They’re just the perfect size to swallow and are among the worst things for children because they become caustic when they touch the esophagus and can perforate it or even erode a child’s airway.
According to the CDC, there were 13 pediatric deaths as a result of swallowing button batteries between 2002 and 2010. The researchers behind the new study want parents to be aware of this danger (even though it’s pretty rare) and to keep button batteries and items that use them out of kids’ reach.
What to do if your child swallows a button battery
If your child does swallow one of these batteries, call 911 right away and feed your child some honey immediately. Another recent study published last summer found that honey can reduce serious injuries by neutralizing the pH of the battery, and The National Capital Poison Center updated its guidelines to encourage parents to serve honey on the way to the hospital.
Honey’s not a cure, a child who swallows a button battery will still need an endoscopy to get the battery out, but honey can buy more time for medical providers when every second counts.
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