Nobody in his right mind would eat a battery, right? But it does happen, often in kids and sometimes in adults. Over the years, electronic gadgets and toys have become smaller and smaller. Compact high-performance batteries that come in tiny pill-shaped or coin-shaped devices power up these gadgets.
These batteries are loaded with heavy metals like mercury, zinc, cadmium, lithium and silver, as well as concentrated amounts of caustic electrolytes like sodium hydroxide or potassium. It's the tiny size and seemingly harmless appearance that has increased the risk of battery ingestion not only among kids but also among adults.
Does It Cause Any Problem?
It's good to know however that most swallowed batteries don't cause any problem, at least 89.9 percent of the time. However, if the batteries get clogged in the esophagus, they must be removed right away, because:
- They can cause damage by adding pressure on the esophageal wall through caustic alkali leakage and electrical current.
- Mild burns can happen in as quick as one hour after the battery has been swallowed.
- In four hours, full-thickness burns can occur.
Are There Any Signs or Symptoms?
Unfortunately, battery ingestion doesn't exhibit any signs or symptoms until it already inflicts damage. A person who has swallowed a disk battery may experience the following:
- abdominal pain
- low-grade fever
- persistent drooling
- rash from nickel metal allergy
- dark and bloody stools
- difficulty breathing if the battery gets dislodged in the airways
What Should You Do?
The best way to respond to such emergency is to take nothing by mouth and to rush to the nearest hospital. If possible, bring a sample of the battery that's been ingested. Since all disk batteries have an imprinted code to identify manufacturer, content and size, this can be helpful to the doctor. If you can't find any similar battery, just bring the device from which the battery was used.
How Can This Be Prevented?
Batteries should always be kept in childproof containers. The battery compartments in gadgets and toys should be taped shut to secure the batteries from falling off. Remember that one third of battery ingestion cases in children happen when a child is able to remove batteries from an electronic product. Never store disk batteries in pillboxes. Don't even put them near medications to avoid accidentally popping the batteries into your mouth. It's easy to mistake them for medications.
If you're going to change a battery, never hold it in your mouth. This is also one of the most common causes of battery ingestion among adults. Many make it a habit to hold the battery in their mouths when changing battery of their watch. Then they accidentally swallow the battery.
Although battery ingestion usually doesn't cause serious injuries, it doesn't mean you can neglect safety practices regarding usage and storage of these devices. Keep in mind the preventive measures mentioned above to keep you and your family safe from this accident at all times.