Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Keep an eye on small batteries in kids' toys this Christmas (and at all times)

Little flat batteries, often known as button batteries, can easily be swallowed by children and cause harm  If you think a child may have swallowed a battery take them immediately to A&E / the Emergency Room. 

"Most button batteries pass through the body and are eliminated in the stool (poo). However, sometimes batteries get “hung up”, and these are the ones that cause problems. ... When a battery is swallowed, it is impossible to know whether it will pass through or get “hung up”.  (Source)

Get the child checked out by a professional (they can do an X-ray to check if a battery's inside).

Flat batteries are not safe either and it's not to do with the batteries leaking, the danger is caused by a tiny electrical current (small enough that the battery won't operate the device, but big enough that it can cause problems inside a child's body).
"Severe tissue damage results from a build up of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda)
as a result of the electrical current discharged from the battery, and not, as
commonly supposed, from leakage from the battery. The sodium hydroxide
causes tissue burns, often in the oesophagus, which can then cause
fistulisation into major blood vessels, resulting in catastrophic haemorrhage.
Even apparently discharged (‘flat’) batteries can still have this effect, and
button batteries pushed into ears or nostrils can also cause serious injuries."
Here's a video illustrating a worst-case scenario, using batteries held between two pieces of ham to represent tissues inside the body. There have been cases of severe damage requiring several surgical procedures and some cases have resulted in the death of a child.

Keep your eyes on your batteries.

Other things to watch out for: toys with a battery compartment that's easy to open (encourage manufacturers to make lockable battery compartments that need to be opened with a screwdriver), plastic packs of batteries with perforated card backing - these are also quite easy to open.

Further reading
Button batteries can kill if swallowed - a post I wrote for the CHI+MED blog in 2016 (our project looked at ways of making medical devices safer)

Family Safety: Button Batteries (Suffolk Trading Standards, writing on Families Online in 2016)

The blog post above was prompted by this tweet -

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