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Riley doctors issue holiday warning to parents

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Doctors issue a warning for parents this holiday season. Those at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health said they are seeing a startling trend of children swallowing what’s known as button batteries, small coin-shaped batteries used in many electronics and toys. Doctors call them tiny time bombs.

Just last week at Riley, an Indiana child had one surgically removed before it caused long-term damage to his esophagus.

Nationally, hospitals reported nearly 2,000 children under age six swallowed a button battery in 2015. When that happens it can lodge itself in a child esophagus causing severe pain in the throat and back, vomiting, and other symptoms that may be confused for the flu. According to the CDC, the battery will then emit hydroxide which can cause chemical burns either in the esophagus or even in the child’s intestine. It then needs to be surgically removed as quickly as possible, according to doctors.

For the child treated last week, it was a quick recovery, but more than a dozen children have died in the last two decades because of it.

And it’s not just swallowing them that’s the danger. If put in an ear it can cause long-term hearing problems and children even have been caught with them up their nose.

“In the nose, it can cause such inflammation that it can cause scarring and complete obstruction of one side of the nose. It can also erode through tissues of the nose and cause a significant cosmetic defect,” Dr. John Dahl said.

Doctors say button batteries, even if you think they are dead or expired need to be kept out of children’s reach, preferably in a locked location.

“So many electronics and toys that we’re bringing into our homes, especially this time of year, contain button batteries or need button batteries as refills. Parents should really know where they are, keep them in a locked location and be very careful with watching their children,” Dr. Dahl said.

Another product doctors warn of is small magnets. They can be even more difficult to treat because the magnets can end up in different parts of the intestine and then pull together and eat through the organ.

If you do think your child may have swallowed any type of battery or magnet, go immediately to the emergency room.