A new study revealed that an unlikely substance might actually be a good temporary treatment for children who swallow button batteries.
Children Are Swallowing Button Batteries
Button batteries, which are used to power many devices, are small and appear in a candy-like shape. Some young children might think that the batteries are candy and they might consume them.
"Button batteries are ingested by children more 2,500 times a year in the United States, with more than a 12-fold increase in fatal outcomes in the last decade compared to the prior decade," said Ian N. Jacobs, MD, Director of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
It takes just two hours before the button battery can cause significant injuries and it could be fatal. The battery could get stuck in a child's throat. A chemical reaction might start that would burn through the esophagus. An alkaline solution could form that would disintegrate tissue.
Symptoms might include a sore throat, cough, and fever. However, these could be symptoms of many illnesses, which means parents might not realize that their child has swallowed a lethal battery.
Time is of the essence when a parent discovers what really happened. The longer the battery is stuck inside a child, the more complications there could be. Induced vomiting is not a recommended solution.
Even after a child is rushed to the emergency room to have the battery surgically removed, it could continue to burn the child's body. Typical hospital treatments include feeding and breathing tubes.
Testing Out Different Substances For Patients
With the clock ticking fast in this situation, researchers sought a substance that could protect against the effects of the battery before medical treatment is available. They tested numerous liquids and household products on laboratory animals that would neutralize the harsh alkaline levels from the batteries.
After testing out many juices, sports drinks, and sodas, the researchers found that honey was the most effective treatment. Honey limited the extent of the bodily injuries and it protected the tissue from the battery. Researchers also picked honey because most children enjoy taking it.
The findings were published in a study on June 11 in The Laryngoscope.
What Parents Need To Know
Researchers suggested that parents regularly give their children honey as a temporary treatment before a medical professional can act in this situation. Once the child arrives at the hospital, sucralfate can be used to help remove the battery.
"Safely ingesting any amount of these liquids prior to battery removal is better than doing nothing," said Jacobs.
Parents should not give honey to a child with a severe allergy to it or if the child suffers from perforation of the esophagus. Children under the age of 1 should not receive the honey. Parents should also make sure that button batteries are properly enclosed with childproof locks.