WARNING: Doctors seeing rise in kids swallowing dangerous batteries found in toys

ATLANTA — There's a new warning of which parents need to be aware. Local doctors say they're seeing a rise in children swallowing something most families have in their homes: button batteries.

Swallowing a button battery can cause severe internal burns within two hours -- and even death.

At least 3,500 people in the United States ingest button batteries every year. Serious injuries or deaths increased ninefold in the last decade, doctors told Channel 2 Action News.

"That battery is really causing heat and damage to the esophagus, and what’s even worse is right behind (the) esophagus are major blood vessels, and if it erodes through (the) esophagus, it can get into those blood vessels," said Dr. Cary Sauer, with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

Sauer said there have been quite a few deaths related to swallowing button batteries around the country. The batteries are commonly found in toys.


"We call him lithium baby," parent Rodney Beard said, referring to his son, RJ.

It's a nickname with a scary story behind it. RJ will turn 2 in March, but he's already been through more than any toddler should have to endure.

Last year, he managed to get hold of and swallow a button battery. His dad didn't know what was wrong. He just noticed his 1-year-old wasn't his normal self.

"He wasn't eating and he loves to eat. His whole appetite seemed like it wasn't normal," Beard said.

An X-ray at the pediatrician's office quickly led to emergency surgery at Scottish Rite. The battery was stuck in his esophagus.

"He had to have immediate surgery to remove the battery and then he had to be treated and monitored because he had swelling around his heart from the battery." Beard said. "They were fearful that the swelling could cause hemorrhages."

RJ was in the hospital for 30 days but miraculously made a full recovery. Other children aren't as lucky.

"It was gut-wrenching at times, but he’s a trooper. He never gave up. We had some rough days, but thank God we made it through," Beard said.

After RJ's case, doctors at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta developed a button battery task force so they can figure out a protocol on how to deal with these types of cases and the care that has to follow.

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