MONDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- Cases of children rushed to the emergency room after accidentally swallowing coin-sized batteries found in many household gadgets have doubled over the past two decades, new research reveals.
Serious complications -- including fatalities -- can arise when so-called "button batteries," found in items ranging from remote-control devices to children's toys, get lodged in the esophagus.
"The increase we're seeing is a call to action," said study lead author Dr. Gary A. Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "I've treated many of these children, and when it happens it's absolutely horrifying. So while we've always respected the dangers these batteries pose, now it's really time for us to redouble our efforts to warn parents and work with manufacturers to take steps against this risk."
The study appears online May 14 and in the June issue of Pediatrics.
The authors looked at U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System data concerning all battery-related visits to the ER among children up to age 18.
The data covered the years between 1990 and 2009, and though ER visits related to all types of batteries were tracked, the team noted that nearly 84 percent of such visits involved button-sized batteries.
Four different types of accidental contact with button batteries were tallied: swallowing and insertion of a battery into the mouth, ear, or nose.
The team found that over the 20-year period such contacts translated into nearly 66,000 ER visits, with a dramatic increase over the final eight years. Button batteries accounted for 2,785 ER visits by kids younger than 18 in 2009, up from 1,301 in 1990.
"In effect, the curve of ER cases is now swinging way up," Smith said, "which means the increase is increasing, so to speak. And this coinci
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