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Hidden danger: Parents must be vigilant of button batteries in their kids’ new toys, doctor says

Consumer Investigations

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Kids across Rhode Island will be waking up Friday morning and unwrapping the gifts Santa left under the Christmas tree, but there could be a hidden danger within some of those new toys.

Button batteries come in several shapes and sizes, and can be found in everyday items like musical greeting cards and remote controls.

Dr. Mark Zonfrillo, a pediatric physician at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, tells 12 News parents need to remain vigilant, especially around the holidays, because those batteries can also be found in holiday lights, decorations and new toys.

“Although they seem pretty harmless, they can be quite destructive,” he said. “More than 2,800 children are treated in emergency room departments every year after ingesting a button battery.”

Zonfrillo said in addition to working at Hasbro, he studies unintentional injury in children. He said besides being a choking hazard, the buttons can cause serious issues if they become lodged in the esophagus.

“When it is still, it can cause a chemical reaction and cause erosion,” he said. “It can cause a burn to the surface of the esophagus. That can actually lead to a perforation or a hole in the esophagus which can go into the trachea or the windpipe.”

He said this can happen within a few hours of the button battery being ingested, and can result in severe injury, lead to long-term disability or even death. He said parents shouldn’t take any chances if they think their child has ingested a button battery.

“If you suspect that a child has ingested a button battery, you want to go to the hospital immediately,” he said, adding that parents should not force their kids to eat, drink or induce vomiting.

Zonfrillo said there are several signs to look for to determine whether a child has swallowed a button battery.

“You may notice that they’re coughing or drooling, or have some discomfort,” Zonfrillo said.

Prevention is key, and Zonfrillo suggested parents be aware of products in their homes that may contain these kinds of batteries. He stressed the importance of keeping any replacement batteries out of the reach of children.

“Treat it as you would a poison or a toxin or another type of cleaner in the household,” he said.

Hasbro Children’s Hospital has an outreach program through the injured prevention center called the 4Safety Program, which parents can use as a resource.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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