Does Honey Help if My Child Ingests a Button Battery? Gastroenterologist Dr. Rhodes Explains
Earlier this month, a 3-year-old Ohio girl made headlines after she swallowed a button battery and her mom gave her honey while they were on the way to the hospital.
The family finished eating dinner when the girl told her mother, Katie Jacobsen, that she swallowed a button battery that was from a toy. They had extra honey packets on hand, which helped ease the battery through the girl’s stomach.
Button batteries and lithium coin batteries are dangerous for children if ingested. These small, shiny batteries are found in remotes, key fobs, thermometers, toys, and many other devices found in the home.
When a child swallows a button battery, the saliva triggers an electrical current. This causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.
If a battery is ingested, parents should immediately call 911, and seek medical attention at the emergency room. If your child is over 12 months old, Cook Children's experts confirm that parents can offer the child honey, if available.
“Ingestion of button batteries can cause severe complications including respiratory difficulty, injury to the respiratory tract, injury to esophagus, stomach, or intestines, bleeding, and even death so it’s very important to seek immediate medical attention and ultimately prevent ingestion,” Dr. Rhodes said.
She says if a mucosal injury is present, monitoring is required after removal. Repeat endoscopy and imaging are done on the patient to assess for complications. Long-term follow-up may be needed depending on the severity of the injury, Rhodes said.
From 1997 to 2010, an estimated 40,400 children 13 years and under were treated in hospital emergency departments for battery-related injuries, including confirmed or possible battery ingestions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly three-quarters of the injuries involved children 4 years and under; 10% required hospitalization, the CDC said.
Dr. Rhodes answered more questions for us about coin battery ingestions:
What are the symptoms to look out for that might indicate that my child swallowed a button battery?
Abdominal pain, bleeding, cough, breathing difficulty, sore throat, chest pain, fever, and weight loss are symptoms to look for if a child swallowed a button battery.
What should parents do if their child swallowed a battery?
Seek medical attention: call 911 or head to the emergency room. For children over 12 months old, give Carafate or honey soon after ingestion. This may help improve injury to the esophagus and stomach, but do not delay seeking medical attention. The National Battery Ingestion Hotline is available at 800-498-8666, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
How soon should you give honey or Carafate to your child after swallowing a button battery?
Immediately and ideally less than 12 hours of ingestion. However, do not delay seeking medical attention to administer honey.
How do honey and Carafate help prevent injury? How much should I give?
Honey and Carafate coat the battery, which limits electrode activity and neutralizes generated hydroxide. This prevents damage and perforation to the esophagus and stomach.
Carafate is a prescribed medicine that coats and covers the mucosa of the esophagus and stomach to help protect it from injury.
Recommended doses for both honey and Carafate:
- For children over 12 months old, give 10 ml or 2 teaspoons every 10 minutes with a maximum of 6 doses of honey and 3 doses of Carafate.
- However, do not delay medical attention to administer.
- Do not induce vomiting. Do not delay emergency care to look for honey.
What can medical professionals do if my child swallows a battery?
1. Check vital signs and evaluate to see if stable.
2. An X-ray is done to identify the location.
3. If the battery is in the esophagus less than 2 hours after ingestion, then immediate endoscopic removal. It will be removed by Ear-Nose-Throat or GI depending on location.
4. If the battery is in the esophagus less than 12 hours after ingestion, the child is stable and able to swallow and ingest consider honey (>1 years) or Carafate while waiting for endoscopy. But do not delay endoscopy to give it.
5. Beyond esophagus and symptomatic (abdominal pain, bleeding, cough, breathing difficulty, sore throat, chest pain, fever, weight loss) or magnet co-ingestion less than 12 hours of ingestion immediate endoscopic removal if in the stomach. Consult surgery if in the small intestine or colon.
6. Beyond esophagus and asymptomatic less than 12 hours of ingestion repeat X-ray in 7-14 days or sooner if develops symptoms. If no passage, proceed to endoscopic removal.
7. If it's been more than 12 hours of ingestion, your child may need an endoscopy, CT scan or endoscopic removal.
8. If it's been more than 12 hours of ingestion, in the small intestines or colon, and asymptomatic repeat X-ray in 7-14 days or sooner of develops symptoms. If no passage, consult surgery.
What else should parents and caregivers be aware of?
The presence of an ingested button battery is considered a medical emergency, so do not delay seeking medical attention.
Make sure battery compartments are secured and screwed properly. Button batteries are shiny and attractive to children so avoid leaving loose batteries around.
Keeping Children Safe at Home from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Crawling infants, toddlers and young children often put things in their mouths. Because of this, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of accidents.
- Look for batteries in child-resistant packaging. There is one type of lithium coin battery with a bitter coating to discourage swallowing.
- Make sure battery compartments are secure, especially for commonly used items like remote controls and key fobs. Consider taping them shut for an additional layer of security.
- Know what items in your home contain button batteries and lithium coin batteries, including older siblings' toys, calculators, and games.
- Store items that use these batteries out of reach, and out of sight if possible. For example, keep thermometers or remote controls in a secure drawer or cabinet when not in use. Hang keys up high on hooks. If someone receives a musical card, make sure to throw the card out when done or remove the battery before allowing children to keep it in their room. Remind older siblings to keep their stuff off the floor.
- Make sure childcare providers and family members are aware of the safety concerns. Post the number for the National Battery Ingestion Hotline (800-498-8666) with other emergency information in your home.
- Throw out or recycle old batteries right away. Even batteries that are "dead" can be dangerous. To safely dispose of button batteries and lithium coin batteries, wrap them in tape and place them in an outside garbage can.
- Talk with your children about safety. We teach kids to hold hands and look both ways when crossing a street and that a stove is hot. In the same way, we can teach them that handling batteries is for grown-ups. Talk to older children as well to make sure they keep track of items responsibly.
If a child ingests a button battery, immediately call for help, either through 911 or the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 800-498-8666, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Dr. LaQuatre Rhodes is a Pediatric Gastroenterologist. At an early age, she had a passion for science and interacting with people which ignited her interest in medicine and aspiration of becoming a Pediatrician. She earned her medical degree from Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. She then completed her Pediatric Residency training at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-Shreveport and Pediatric Gastroenterology fellowship at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans.
Dr. Rhodes loves the vast pathology of the GI system and unique structure-function relationships which provides the opportunity to care for patients with a multitude of conditions. She has interests in nutrition, IBD, NASH, and obesity. Each patient encounter is challenging and rewarding and there's not a day she regrets going into this field.
Dr. Rhodes is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. She is an advocate for the community and is highly involved with service geared toward teens. When not at work, she enjoys playing and watching sports, spending time with family and friends, enjoys the arts (ballet, tap, jazz, etc), and listening to music and attending performances.
Dr. Rhodes is inspired by those who paved the way for the many opportunities she has been afforded to reach her goals of becoming a physician. "Every dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." This quote by Harriet Tubman continues to motivate and inspire Dr. Rhodes as she continues to pursue her passion in medicine and the challenges that accompany it.!"