In October 2020, 17-month-old Reese Hamsmith woke up “snotty, wheezy, not herself.”
But unbeknownst to the doctor, Reese’s body was burning from the inside out, caused by a button battery lodged in the toddler’s throat.
It was only later, when Reese’s parents noticed a battery missing from their remote, that the severity of the situation revealed itself.
A frantic trip to the ER confirmed the parents’ fears: She had swallowed a button battery, the circuit of which was quickly burning a hole in her esophagus.
Within months, their healthy, happy baby girl, who lit up every room she walked into, was gone.
Despite numerous medical procedures and a prolonged stay in the hospital, Reese sadly lost her fight in early December 2020.
Now, Trista and her family are sharing Reese’s story in the hopes of preventing the untimely deaths of other children.
“It is estimated that only 11% of all cases are reported, meaning this is happening to 36,000 children annually. This can be prevented.”
What is a button battery?
Reese’s family is begging parents to learn about button batteries and how to prevent their ingestion to save others from the heartbreak they’re living with.
Button batteries are the small, flat, round batteries generally used in portable devices that you’d find around the home.
When button batteries get wet, the electrical current in the battery breaks down the water, forming a corrosive product similar to oven cleaner. Even when they’re old, button batteries can still produce enough electricity to cause burns inside the body.
Which items use button batteries?
Generally, if an item is small, electronic and doesn’t plug into the wall, it’s likely to contain a button battery.
Because button batteries can lurk all around the home, Trista has made it her mission to educate parents on where they might find them.
According to ReesesPurpose.org — a non-profit organization founded by Reese’s family to identify, advocate and correct safety issues impacting children and their families — these are some of the common household items that contain button batteries:
- Car remotes
- Remote controls
- Key/remote finders
- Musical cards
- Keyring flashlights
- Fake candles
- Hearing aids
- Light-up sneakers and clothes
ReesesPurpose.org also goes on to warn parents that “swallowing a button battery can cause severe damage in just two hours. If you think a child has ingested a button battery, don’t wait for them to show symptoms. Go immediately to the nearest ER. Common ingestion symptoms can include wheezing, drooling, vomiting, coughing, decreased appetite and chest discomfort.”
Battery safety checklist
To help parents thoroughly secure batteries and keep kids safe, ReesesPurpose.org also provides a checklist for parents to help guide them:
- Have you checked your home for button batteries and items that use them?
- Have you checked that the button battery compartment of all items that use them is tightly secured?
- Do you store button batteries and items that use them out of the reach of young children?
- Do you keep hearing aids and batteries separate from any medications?
- Do you always dispose of batteries immediately and safely? Dead batteries or batteries that no longer power devices are still dangerous to children.
- Do you check novelty items and toys such as flashing jewelry/clothes given to your children for button batteries?
- Have you entered the 24/7 National Battery Ingestion Hotline number into your mobile phone? 1-800-498-8666
How do I properly dispose of batteries?
In addition to securing all battery compartments around your home, you might consider safely disposing of battery buttons. To do this properly, ReesesPurpose.org and battery experts recommend using tape.
“Whether you are trying to safely store them, or you are sending spent batteries to be recycled, they need to be taped with non-conductive tape or stored in their original packaging,” states recycling center NLR.
Cover both sides of the battery using duct tape, masking tape or non-conductive electrical tape. Then, store the taped batteries in their original packaging, and tape up that packaging as well.
Take the taped-up batteries to a nearby recycling center, or store them safely out of the reach and sight of children.
Help pass Reese’s Law
While baby-proofing batteries in your home is a crucial first step in keeping kids safe, ReesesPurpose.org is working hard to pass legislation that will protect children everywhere.
If passed, Reese’s Law HR 5313 will help to prevent lifelong health issues or the death of a child due to accidental button battery ingestion by:
- Mandating secure battery compartments for all devices that require a button or coin battery
- Developing and bringing a safer battery to the market
- Increasing education of parents and medical professionals on the signs and symptoms of button battery ingestion, which is often misdiagnosed until after significant damage has happened
If you found this story insightful, read about this mom’s warnings about the dangerous bacteria lurking inside bath toys.
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