What If Your Baby Chews or Swallows On Batteries?

4 min read

By Dr. Chetan Ginigiri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER) Fellowship PICU (Kings College London), Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital

Children’s curiosity about their immediate world is not matched by their ability to understand danger

It’s a known fact that there is nothing in this world that will not catch the fancy of your little one’s eye! Be it metal, plastic, glass, natural, man-made, chewable or toxic, small children cannot differentiate between edible/non-edible and safe/toxic. Especially those who are in teething phase will chew anything and everything that will satisfy their gum irritation. This can be really dangerous if left unnoticed as a baby can sometimes end up chewing or ingesting highly risky and hazardous things. One such item is a battery. Yes, as stated earlier, kids can start nibbling onto anything and batteries are completely within this genre! But what do you do when such a thing happens? How do you give first aid? Are there ways to prevent this? Let’s find out!

Alkaline Battery

  • What If Your Baby Chews On Batteries?
  • Battery Hazard For Babies
  • Signs And Symptoms Of Battery Ingestion
  • Battery Acid Poisoning In Babies
  • What First Aid Can Be Given To Babies?
  • What To Do If Your Baby Ingested A Battery
  • Safety & Prevention Tips For Battery Ingestion

What If Your Baby Chews On Batteries?

Since batteries are found in almost all the toys today, there is a high possibility that your little genius will pull one out of the toy and start nibbling on it without knowing if it’s a food item or a highly toxic substance. Be it stuffed toys, remote controlled cars, robots, mimicking birds or other cell/battery operated play item, all are powered by either a button or an alkaline battery. These contain metals like zinc, mercury, lithium etc. Since these are so small and easy to hold for kids, they often seem danger-free to kids. If your little one accidentally chews on a battery and manages to swallow it, you must immediately rush to the hospital as this is treated as an emergency. Any leakage of the dangerous substances held within the battery can prove to be fatal.

Battery Hazard For Babies

A small button battery or an alkaline battery is easy to hold, coordinate the hand movement to the mouth and put it in and bit , chew or swallow. Once accidentally swallowed, it is likely to get stuck in food pipe or esophagus and that is a time critical emergency.

  1. Pressure exerted by the stuck battery against the wall of the food pipe and cause pressure induced tear or breach
  2. The negative charge side of the battery when comes in contact with electrolyte rich wall of the food pipe, it can cause a chemical reaction to form a very potent corrosive material and melt away the food pipe, the windpipe and neighboring blood vessel causing life threatening bleed within 2-4 hours of impaction. Hence, immediate transport to a well equipped Pediatric hospital with Endoscopic removal facility is essential

button battery

Signs And Symptoms Of Battery Ingestion

  1. Abdominal pain
  2. Vomiting
  3. Gagging
  4. Continuous drooling
  5. Dark, bloody stools
  6. Breathing difficulties(due to airway blockage)
  7. Choking

Battery Acid Poisoning In Babies

Apart from the internal burns and choking risks, ingestion of batteries poses other risks too in babies. For example, if your baby chews on batteries, the battery acid can cause severe burns in the mouth. The battery acid, either in liquid form or in dried flakes, can get into your baby’s eyes, causing pain, burning or even blindness.

What First Aid Can Be Given To Babies?

  • Stay with the baby
  • Do not give anything to eat or drink
  • Do not induce vomiting
  • Rush to hospital

battery ingestion

What To Do If Your Baby Ingested A Battery

  • A Chest and Abdominal X ray is done to locate the exact site of impaction
  • If lodged in the food pipe / wind pipe – arrangements are made for immediate removal of the battery using instrumentation endoscopes. This may require your child be wheeled to the Operating room and Anesthesia.
  • The exact extent of injury / corrosion is known only after the procedure.
  • Child may need to stay hospitalized for 2-3 days or more depending upon the injury
  • Oral intake will be started as per doctors advice

Safety & Prevention Tips For Battery Ingestion

We need to understand that kids enjoy playing with almost everything that comes their way; they love to explore and satisfy their curiosity. It is our responsibility as adults to make sure we create a safe environment for them to grow. Prevention is the key here. Try to keep some pointers in mind:

  • Always make sure that the child is not surrounded by anything unsafe, hazardous or even a tiny bit harmful
  • Keep an eye on the baby at all times. Your little one can’t distinguish between good or bad. You can!
  • Store any loose batteries in child-safe containers and away from your kid’s reach
  • Put a tape onto the battery compartments of toys to ensure batteries do not come out and your little one does not “accidentally” pull them out

Remember, kids will be kids. You do not have to completely shut out batteries from their lives, just be extra careful with such things. Continue to buy your little bud his/her favorite toys, but make sure you keep their safety in mind and follow prevention methods mentioned above. Check all toys for safety compliance before handing over to your child especially the online purchases.
Your child’s Paediatrician is simply a phone call away. So, do not panic in such situations and give them a call. Know which hospitals are equipped with skill sets and equipment to handle complex childhood emergencies.

Dr. Chetan Ginigiri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER) Fellowship PICU (Kings College London), Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital

Dr Chetan Ginigeri is an experienced Pediatric Intensivist with national and international training. With 15 years of experience, he is one among very few Intensivists in India trained to take care of children who need/had organ transplants. He has been responsible for coordinating the Pediatric Organ Transplant program.Read more.

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