Emergency Room Toddler Visits Surge as More Get Hurt by Binkies, Bottles and Batteries

Researchers from two new studies, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that everyday things around the house are responsible for a large proportion of infant injuries and a surging rate of visits to the ER for children younger than 18, especially children under the age of five.

Investigators from the first study estimated that between 1991 and 2010, more than 45,398 children were treated in emergency departments because of injuries from baby bottles, pacifiers, and sippy cups, according to data collected from a network of over 100 hospitals.

According to the latest analysis, 2,230 children get treated for related injuries in the ER every year or one child being treated at the ER every four hours, according to co–author Sarah Keim.

Keim notes that many injuries were probably treated at home or at a pediatrician office, so it wouldn’t reflect in the study. 

Most of the injuries caused by baby bottles, pacifiers, or sippy cups were to the teeth and mouth and were cuts and bruises that were caused by falls while children are walking or running with the items in their mouth.

The findings indicated that bottles caused the most injuries at 66 percent, pacifiers caused 20 percent and sippy cups caused 14 percent of the cases. 

Researchers from the second study, also published in the journal Pediatrics, estimate that 65,788 children under the age of 18 were treated in the emergency department for battery-related accidents between 1990 and 2009.

The findings equate to 3,289 visits per year, or 1 child or teenager being injured every 3 hours, according to researcher. 

About 80 percent of the patients who visited the ER because of due to battery-related injuries were 5 years old or younger, and one-year-old children accounted for 20.9 percent of all visits, the largest proportion for any other age group.

Researchers also found that the number and rate of battery-related emergency department for children nearly doubled from 301 in 1990 to 2,785 in 2009, because an increasing number of children and teens are swallowing lithium ‘button’ batteries in electronic devices.

"Button batteries were implicated in more than 80 percent of all ED visits for which battery type was specified," the researchers wrote in the study, and cylindrical batteries were involved in 16.2 percent of the visits.

About 76.6 percent of the children in ER had swallowed the batteries, 10.2 percent had put the batteries up their nose, 7.5 percent had licked the batteries and 5.7 percent had inserted the batteries in their ears.

While most batteries pass through the gastrointestinal tract spontaneously without adverse consequences, researchers warn that swallowing a button battery, like the ones found in remote controls, electronic games, and watches, is particularly dangerous for young children because the tiny batteries can lodge in the esophagus and can potentially lead to severe injury or even death in less than two hours.

“Batteries pose an important hazard to children, especially those aged under or aged 5 years. Primary prevention of battery exposures is critical because of the limited effectiveness of medical interventions once tissue damage has occurred. The increasing number and rate of battery-related ED visits among children underscore the need for increased prevention efforts," the researchers concluded.