PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — An increasing number of children are swallowing small, round batteries, known as button batteries, and winding up with serious injuries.
Battery-related emergency room visits have doubled in the last decade among children under the age of 5, according to information recently published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Recently, doctors at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters removed one from the esophagus of a 10-month-old.
Madelyn Cheek loves to watch people come and go from her dad’s chiropractic office in Yorktown. A door chime usually alerts her to the comings and goings.
Three weeks ago, her dad told WAVY, that the chime flew off the frame and Madelyn got to it before anyone noticed.
“She just started crying and I looked over and she’s got the uh — this thing had just fallen on the floor — and it was on the floor next to her.”
Her father, Dr. Joel Cheek, is a former paramedic and knew to look for the battery.
“[I] couldn’t find the battery, so I told Heather [his wife] to go ahead and take her over to the ER and get an X-ray just to make sure she hadn’t swallowed it, cause I knew how dangerous they could be,” he said.
Fortunately, he did. An X-ray showed she had in fact swallowed it.
A helicopter flew Madelyn from Newport News to CHKD in Norfolk. There was no time to waste.
“Animal studies show within two hours it can burn through the esophagus,” said Dr. Thomas Gallagher, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at CHKD.
“They’re kind of like this smoldering ember that just keeps going until you remove it,” Dr. Gallagher said.
He is the one who removed the battery. He got it out within an hour and a half of Madelyn swallowing it.
Despite having to pry it from the tissue it had burned into, the doctor declared it a best-case scenario because her parents acted so quickly.
“I’ve had one where it paralyzed the child’s vocal cords and they ended up needing a tracheostomy. My partner had one where it perforated from the food pipe into the windpipe.”
Madelyn was in the hospital for a week being fed by a tube. Her parents said the following week at home, she could barely nurse because of the pain.
“My anxiety has increased a lot. There are so many things these batteries are in,” said Heather Cheek, Madelyn’s mother.
Last month, President Joe Biden signed Reese’s law, named for a Texas toddler who died after swallowing a button battery.
The new law requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission to establish product safety standards for batteries that can be easily swallowed, and products containing the batteries must have a warning label.
While the changes are designed to save lives, doctors say it’s still imperative for parents to be aware.
Dr. Gallagher offered this advice: Before you throw away a button battery, wrap it in tape.
If you think a child has swallowed one you can give them 2 teaspoons of honey on the way to the hospital.
but only if it’s easily accessible … don’t waste time looking for it.
The most important thing is to get to the hospital as quickly as possible.