We’re always delighted to report advancements, especially those with the potential to save lives/prevent substantial injury. A joint Dutch university project (Delft University of Technology, University Medical Center Groningen, and the University of Groningen) focusses on producing batteries that prevent major injury when they are ingested. These “future” batteries will automatically cut the electrical current that otherwise results in burns wherever the battery lands as it passes through, or gets lodged in, the body.
Currently batteries are a grave danger for society’s most vulnerable: young children and those with cognitive impairment. And don’t forget pets, who may gobble up (or inhale) anything within reach. The small ‘button’ ones are particularly appealing: conveniently the size of candy.
Until safer batteries become commercially available:
- Be aware of the batteries in your surroundings and ensure that any caregivers are alert to the dangers. Small batteries are everywhere. In remote controls, car keys and hearing aids, but also in toys, electric tea lights, musical greeting cards, scales, flashing balloons and children’s shoes. Be particularly careful with vintage items that were produced before safety regulations mandated locking devices. Question whether ‘novelty’ items are worth the risk (and environmental impact) of the batteries.
- All batteries should be kept carefully, preferably in locked boxes and well out of reach of curious fingers. Even depleted batteries are a health hazard when ingested, so store them safely and recycle them as soon as possible.
And, just in case:
- Familiarize yourself with the signs of battery ingestion. They include, but are not limited to, vomiting blood, a sudden-onset cough, gagging or drooling, reduced appetite.
- Anyone suspected of swallowing a battery should get immediate medical care: this is always an emergency.
- Any patient suspected of having swallowed a battery should be given 10 ml of honey every 10 minutes while awaiting medical care (Except for babies ≤ 1 year and those with compromised immune systems). This may help reduce the damage, but endoscopic intervention is still required.
Medical Training Tools looks forward to having endoscopic retrieval of batteries be a less urgent item in our foreign-body removal training.
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