Pediatricians issue button battery warning

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pediatricians across the nation are sounding the alarm warning parents about the dangers of button batteries, as more kids are getting hurt.

Doctors are seeing more of problems with button batteries because there are more of these batteries.

You wouldn't think the tiny battery could do so much damage, but it can. And one local family found this out the hard way.

3-year-old Umar Kahn seems like a happy little boy, but over the past several months, he's had at least two operations, spent three weeks in intensive care, and he had to get a feeding tube.

"It's heart-breaking to see a child get through so many troubles," said Sonia Kahn.

The trouble first started in September. Umar had a mild cough and fever. His father, an adult doctor, says two days later, things got worse.

"He just stopped eating, and by the time I got home he was very lethargic," said Wajahat Kahn.

So they took him to his pediatrician, and a chest x-ray revealed a 2 centimeter lithium disc battery; also called a button battery.

The Kahns don't know where Umar picked it up, but the batteries are found in car keys, cameras, some toys, and even musical greeting cards.

Dr. Ian Jacobs is a pediatric ear, nose and throat doctor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

He says they are seeing more kids swallow these button batteries, and the effects can be deadly.

"If left in place, if it gets stuck in the swallowing passage for more than a couple of hours, it can potentially erode right through," says Dr. Jacobs.

That is what happened in Umar's case. The battery burned a hole through his esophagus to his trachea, or breathing tube.

In other cases, vocal cords can be severely damaged, and if the battery, just about the size of a quarter erodes into blood vessels, it can cause massive bleeding and death.

That's why Dr. Jacobs is urging parents to be aware.

"The best advice is to prevent this in the first place, and keep these lithium disc batteries out of the reach of children at all times," Dr. Jacobs said.

Umar is fortunate. His latest procedure shows after more than four months, the hole has closed.

The feeding tube should be able to come out soon, and Umar can get back to his regular routine.

"I am so relieved," said Sonia Kahn. "I am so happy. Thank God it is all over."

And if you ever suspect your child has swallowed one of these batteries, you should get them to the emergency room right away.

In the meantime, some doctors are also trying to get lawmakers to help set rules for securing these batteries.

By the way, the Kahn's have thrown out all products with button batteries.

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children, childrens hospital of philadelphia, healthcheck, ali gorman, r.n.
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