In the United States, children ingest more than 3,000 button-type batteries annually. These small, shiny objects are extremely appealing to children, but can result in major injuries and even death when ingested. Button batteries are found in watches, thermometers, remote controls, toys, calculators, singing greeting cards, flashlights, cameras, holiday ornaments, key fobs, hearing aids, electronic jewelry and bathroom scales. The likelihood of any given household having at least one item in their home which uses a button battery is extremely high.
Unfortunately, many of these items do not contain warnings regarding the battery inside. While some of these button batteries require a tiny screwdriver to remove, other batteries can fall out when the product is dropped—or played with by a child. When a child swallows a button battery, or places it in a nasal category or an ear, there may be obvious symptoms, or there may be no immediate symptoms at all. The higher the voltage of the battery (i.e., a 3V vs. a 1.5V) the faster the symptoms may appear, and the greater the injury. Lithium, which makes the battery more powerful, can also make it more deadly.
Symptoms of Button Battery Injury
When a button battery is pushed into the ear canal or up into the nose, there may be drainage or pain. These are not, however, symptoms specific to button batteries, but can be seen anytime a foreign body is placed in the nose or ear. Unless the parent is aware the child put a button battery into the nose or ear, there can be a significant delay in diagnosis, with a higher likelihood of serious injury. A button battery which remains inside the nasal cavity for any length of time can lead to scar tissue formation, nasal septal perforation, nasal mucosal injury and periorbital cellulitis. A button battery remaining inside the ear canal for any length of time can cause hearing loss, tympanic membrane perforation and facial nerve paralysis.
When a child swallows a button battery, the pH of the tissue adjacent to the battery is rapidly increased as a result of the battery’s electric current. Significant tissue injury can result in two hours or less. If the battery becomes lodged in the esophagus, vocal cord paralysis, esophageal perforation, tracheoesophageal fistula, esophageal stricture and even death due to hemorrhage of an esophageal fistula is possible. In simpler terms, the button battery can burn holes through the esophagus, leading to chronic breathing problems, infections and even fatalities from excessive bleeding.
When the swallowed battery lands with the negative pole in contact with tissue fluids, hydroxide is generated, resulting in alkaline burns and esophageal perforations in two hours or less. Many times, parents are unaware the child has swallowed a button battery—more than 60 % of all button battery incidents are initially misdiagnosed. The symptoms can resemble those of “common” childhood ailments, such as upset stomach and fever. The treatment for a button battery lodged anywhere in the body is immediate removal, as well as long-term follow up.
Getting the Help You Need
In order to decrease the number of injuries and deaths related to button batteries, manufacturers must be held accountable for making the battery compartments more inaccessible and child resistant. Button battery-related injuries can be the result of defective product design, or a lack of safeguards, but whatever the reason, negligent manufacturers must be held accountable. If your child suffered serious internal injuries after swallowing a button battery, you are advised to speak to a knowledgeable child injury attorney regarding obtaining compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering and other damages.
Contact Our Washington DC Child Injury Lawyers
At Patrick Malone & Associates, our child injury lawyers have extensive experience representing injured children and families in Washington, DC metro area, Virginia, and throughout the State of Maryland. If your child has sustained a serious injury after swallowing a button battery, our lawyers can help determine who is to blame. Call us at 1-202-742-1500 or toll free at 1-888-625-6635 or fill out our confidential contact form for a FREE Consultation and review of your case.
The child injury attorneys at Patrick Malone & Associates have successfully represented injured individuals in Washington, DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Annapolis, Rockville, Baltimore, Richmond, Fairfax, Maryland, and throughout Virginia.