Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Batteries that threaten a child's life

I do have a ton of kid's books that make noise. I have never thought about the fact that they have a little battery in them. This story really helped open my eyes. I am going on a battery scavenger hunt this weekend!

FROM ABC: Parents of toddlers know children will put just about anything into their mouths, but when that something is a disc battery, the consequences can be deadly. An important warning tonight for parents. Amy Vasquez, Kaiden's mom: "He came to me crying and sticking his fingers down his throat and vomiting." One minute, Kaiden Vasquez was a happy and healthy 13 month old. The next...

Amy Vasquez, Kaiden's mom
:"I didn't know what had happened. I was scared, so I immediately piled all the kids in the car and took him to the emergency room." And after spending the night at the hospital running tests. Amy Vasquez, Kaiden's mom "They sent him home and told me it was the stomach flu." Only, Kaiden did not have the stomach flu. He had a lithium disc battery stuck in his esophagus.

Kaiden had put a remote control in his mouth, and even though the battery compartment was screwed shut, the battery came loose and he swallowed it.
Dr. Toby Litovitz, director, National Capital Poison Center: "These children are often brought to the pediatrician or emergency department and they're misdiagnosed because their symptoms are so typical of more common illnesses." Doctor Toby Litovitz is the Medical Director of the National Capital Poison Center and the author of this new study detailing the severity of battery ingestion accidents. She says children have been swallowing small batteries for decades.

So what's different? The battery size and voltage.
Dr. Toby Litovitz/ Director, National Capital Poison Center "So what's happening with these batteries is because they're larger in diameter they're getting stuck in the esophagus of the child when the child swallows." Today, these tiny, flat batteries are 20 millimeters, between the size of a penny and nickel and carry as much as 3 volts. So when a lithium battery gets lodged, it creates an electrolysis reaction and results in a serious chemical burn that eats through tissue.

Dr. Toby Litovitz, Director, National Capital Poison Center: "And so it would be like little drops of something like a drain cleaner in your child's esophagus. The critical thing is you only have a two-hour window to get that battery out."
But in Kaiden's case because he was misdiagnosed, he was back home. Amy Vasquez, Kaiden's mom: "Then progressively over a week he got worse and worse and worse." So Amy, who happens to be a registered nurse, took Kaiden to his pediatrician where this x-ray showed a circle in his esophagus.

Amy Vasquez, Kaiden's mom: "I was devastated. The battery was in his esophagus, lodged in his esophagus and burning a hole into us trachea for the whole week."
Kaiden was hospitalized for two weeks, received food through an I.V. at home for months waiting for his esophagus to heal. But this story is not unique. About 35-hundred cases of battery ingestion are reported to U.S. Poison Centers each year. More than a dozen children have died. The majority of kids swallowing disc batteries?

Children younger than four years old. Dr. Toby Litovitz, Director, National Capital Poison Center: "Some of these children won't feed again normally, they won't talk again normally. They'll have breathing problems for the rest of their lives."
Amy still has the battery that was lodged in Kaiden's esophagus. And she found lithium disk batteries all over her home. In her kids' books, that she now keeps out of reach unless she's reading to the kids. She also removes small batteries from things like her thermometer. Amy Vasquez/ Kaiden's mom: "Baby-proof everything. Always keep the batteries out of the way, duct tape things you can't get rid of." "You want to push the buttons?" As for Kaiden today...

Amy Vasquez, Kaiden's mom:
"He is good today. He is wonderful today."

There is actually a 24-hour national battery ingestion hotline, just dial 202-625-3333 or you can call your poison center if you think your child has swallowed a battery.
Doctors like Dr. Litovitz are working hard to bring awareness to the dangers of batteries. And they're recommending manufacturers redesign products to that it requires a screw and screwdriver to actually open battery compartments.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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