Hidden dangers of flesh-eating batteries

Steps to take to protect your child


JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – They’re so small it’s hard to imagine how dangerous they can be. Batteries, they make everything around us function. From remote controls to toys to even musical greeting cards but those everyday objects can sometimes end up in the wrong hands. Those hands could be your child’s and in one split second, those seemingly “harmless” objects can turn deadly.

In January, a 2-year-old girl from Oklahoma swallowed a battery and died just a few days later. Now, her family is trying to use their heartbreak to let other families know the dangers of batteries.

A 2-year-old girl from Oklahoma swallowed a battery and died just a few days later.
A 2-year-old girl from Oklahoma swallowed a battery and died just a few days later.

“If that battery gets stuck in the esophagus then a chemical reaction happens and it can happen pretty quickly. You can have significant injury within 30 minutes,” says Dr. Michelle Estes, a Pediatrician in Kingsport, Tennessee.

Megan Scott, a mother of two, admits it’s hard to keep her eyes on her kids all the time, especially her 2-year-old son, Easton. One thing Scott uses as a way to entertain Easton is a musical greeting card, one that lights up and plays music every time he opens it. What Scott does not know is the popular greeting cards are powered by a small but powerful button battery, something that can be very dangerous if accidentally swallowed.

Dr. Cassandra Eagle, the Chair of the Department of Chemistry at ETSU says it’s the combination of the lithium in the battery and water from body tissue that can really cause harm when they come in contact with each other.


Dr. Eagle conducted an experiment using ham to model body tissue to show the devastating effects a lithium button battery can have. She put a lithium button battery in between two slices of ham. She let the battery sit in the ham for 12 and 3 hours to show the time lapse of what could happen to the human body if a button battery is inside the body for less than a day. Within minutes of placing the battery there was already discoloration forming in the ham.

“First, it discolors the flesh after just a few minutes, then after 3 hours you can see it’s starting to burn a hole in the flesh. After several hours you can see it burned a more significant hole in the flesh and that’s exactly what’s going to happen if a lithium battery gets lodged in the throat or the intestines,” says Dr. Eagle.

Dr. Estes says symptoms to look for if your child swallowed a button battery is coughing, weezing, difficulty swallowing, or even coughing up blood. She says even if you think your child swallowed a button battery to immediately take them to the emergency room.

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