GREENSBORO, N.C. — Toys are a young child's best friend, but the batteries that go in them can be a parent's worst enemy.
The National Capital Poison Control Center reports more than 3,500 people swallow button batteries every year in the U.S. -- a 78 percent increase since data collection began in 1985. The majority of cases involve children younger than six, and data shows the incidents tend to spike soon after the holidays.
A common claim about combatting button battery injuries tends to circulate this time of year.
If your child swallows a button battery, you should give him or her honey on the way to the hospital. It could save your little one's life.
Is it true?
- National Capital Poison Control Center
- National Safety Council
- Ross Kuhner, MD -- Cone Health, Medical Director of Pediatric Emergency Department
Yes, honey can be life-saving in delaying bodily damage from button battery ingestion. Start administering honey on the way to the ER and call the National Button Battery Hotline - 1-800-498-8666 - or Poison Control - 1-800-222-1222 - for questions about dosage.
Experts conclude the claim is true.
"Honey is very helpful," affirmed pediatric emergency medical director Ross Kuhner, MD.
He explained, "It helps coat the battery and helps decrease the charge that is causing the burn. So, if we can give honey, and you know the battery is a button battery, honey is the best thing to give."
Kuhner said 99 percent of the battery ingestion cases he sees are from button batteries -- the small, circular batteries commonly found in toys, hearing aids and remote controls. They are harder to pass through the body than cylinder batteries, he explained, and tend to get lodged in the esophagus. The electrical current and alkaline chemical can burn through the tissue. The longer it stays there, the more dangerous it is.
The National Safety Council and Poison Control confirm honey delays the battery injury but is not a substitute for removing it, so they suggest getting to the ER right away and bringing the honey along.
"Give about a teaspoon every 15 minutes, until you can get to the emergency room, and hopefully, we can find someone to take it out," Kuhner advised.
What about babies?
Parents and caretakers all have heard doctors' warnings not to give honey to children younger than one, because it can cause botulism -- a rare illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body's nerves.
"I think the risk of botulism is pretty rare, while the danger of (battery) ingestion is pretty high, so I would probably still recommend giving the honey," Kuhner suggested.
Poison Control noted some children can have up to two teaspoons of honey every 10 minutes, more than Kuhner's recommended dosage of one teaspoon every 15 minutes. Kuhner suggested contacting Poison Control or the National Button Battery Hotline for questions on dosage, per the child's weight and age, and not getting caught up on dosage or timing. The priority should be getting the child to to the hospital as soon as possible, as the child likely will need an x-ray and emergency surgery to remove the battery.
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