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Button batteries swallowed by children: attention danger!

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – ALAIN JOCARD – | Button batteries swallowed by children: attention danger!

At Christmas, millions of toys and electronics will enter homes. And with them, small trivial objects that can cause dramatic accidents if they are swallowed by children: button cells.

“Each year in France, more than 1,200 emergency room visits are related to the ingestion of button cells,” said Wednesday in a joint statement three official structures, the DGCCRF (Repression of Fraud), the Directorate General of Health (DGS) and ANSES. These accidents “affect the majority of 0-5 year olds”.

“People are not aware of the danger and think a button battery and a coin are the same, but a button battery swallowed by a child is an emergency,” he explains. AFP Françoise Denoyelle, head of pediatric ENT department at the Necker-Enfants Sants hospital in Paris.

If “all the button cells are dangerous”, Professor Denoyelle particularly warns against larger ones, with a diameter of 20 mm or more. They may get stuck in the esophagus, the duct that carries food to the stomach, and “the lesions can appear quickly, after two hours”.

Contrary to what one imagines, the immediate danger does not come from the products that contain these piles but from their electric action in the wet medium that is the esophagus.

“The battery acts by electrolysis and destroys the mucous quickly,” says Françoise Denoyelle.

The complications are serious, even life-threatening: “Perforation (esophagus and trachea communicate, with risk of choking), mediastinitis (infection of the mediastinum, part of the thorax located between the lungs), narrowing of the esophagus or nerve palsy.”

Hospital practitioner in pediatric surgical resuscitation in Necker, Robert Rubinsztajn sees happen “the most serious cases”.

“Even when we remove the battery, the phenomenon continues, unlike caustic burns such as those caused for example by ingesting bleach,” he told AFP. “This makes these lesions difficult to treat and requires multiple interventions.”

– Security screws –

In addition to the damage caused by the electrical action, “the products contained by the battery can then spread, but it takes longer,” says Professor Denoyelle, who co-authored a study published mid-October in the European journal Annals of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Diseases.

This study focuses on 26 children aged 1 to 5 admitted to the emergency after swallowing a button cell. Seven had serious complications.

Almost every other day (11 out of 26), the batteries came from remotes (mainly internet boxes or televisions). In four cases, they were stacks of toys and in four others the child had used an open battery pack. The other batteries came from cameras, hearing aids and a watch.

“Toys are subject to strict requirements imposed by European legislation”, remind the DGCCRF, the DGS and ANSES. The battery compartment must not be able to be opened by a child, so it is most often closed by a screw.

“In 2016-2017, 107 electric toys were controlled: the batteries were accessible for 5 toys, including 3 bright hand-spinners, which were removed from the market,” say the three institutions.

They call on parents to “remain vigilant” towards “other everyday objects that include button cells (remote controls, car keys)”: they are not subject to the same obligations as toys and “are regularly sources of accidents. ”

Françoise Denoyelle argues that at the European level, all devices using button cells should be equipped with screw compartments.

She also wants button cells to be packaged in individual packages. Thanks to these two measures, “70% of accidents could be avoided,” she says.

If you think your child has just swallowed a coin-cell battery, do not hesitate to contact the 15 or a poison control center.

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