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Musical Holiday Cards May Harm Children


Children are often delighted by musical and singing holiday cards, and indeed many of them are made for especially for them. Parents must be vigilant, however, about keeping these cards away from young children because they contain button batteries, which may harm children who swallow them or stick them up their nose.

Button batteries are used in a wide variety of items that are well within reach of young children, including musical greeting cards, small toys, watches, hearing aids, touch-and-learn baby books, and calculators. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, about 3,000 people of all ages accidentally ingest batteries each year in the United States. The majority of these cases involve children younger than five years.

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Because button batteries are tiny, round, and shiny, they are attractive to children. According to Dr. Sam Daniel, director of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre, ingestion of a button battery requires immediate medical attention. “Button batteries in the wrong place can be potentially fatal or can cause long term damage. If your child ingests a button battery, it is a medical emergency.”

The US National Institutes of Health reports that ingested batteries can cause abdominal pain, chest pain, and vomiting. In the most severe cases, vocal paralysis or perforation of the nasal passages can occur.

Dr. Daniel notes that batteries start corroding quickly and can cause significant damage in as little as three hours. He urges parents not to attempt to remove a battery themselves unless their child is experiencing severe breathing problems. There is a risk of dislodging the battery and causing further harm to the child if this occurs. If you receive musical holiday cards and you have young children, be sure to keep the cards out of their reach.

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, news release Oct. 4, 2009
Montreal Children’s Hospital news release, Dec. 14, 2009