New National Guidelines Recommend Ingesting Honey after Swallowing Button Battery

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The National Capital Poison Center recently updated its guidelines to encourage parents and caregivers to administer honey immediately and while en route to the hospital after a child swallows a button battery. The new recommendations come shortly after a new study published earlier this month demonstrated that eating honey after swallowing a button battery has the potential to reduce serious injuries in small children.

“While the first thing to do is to make sure a child who is believed to have swallowed a button battery gets to the hospital, this new guideline, based on our study, is better than doing nothing,” said Ian N. Jacobs, MD, the study’s co-leader and Director of the Center for Pediatric Airway Disorders and a pediatric otolaryngologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “We found that honey can reduce esophageal injury in the critical time between ingestion and when a child is able to have the battery properly removed.”

Button batteries are ingested more than 2,500 times per year in the United States. When children ingest a button battery, they may present with symptoms of sore throat, cough, fever, difficulty swallowing, poor oral intake or noisy breathing. Button batteries become highly caustic when in touch with the esophagus, which can lead to severe complications such as esophageal perforation, vocal cord paralysis, and erosion into the airway or major blood vessels. The button battery should be removed by a team of specialized anesthesiologists and endoscopists experienced in removing foreign objects.

While these new guidelines will hopefully reinforce these important findings, Jacobs said that precaution is still the best medicine.

 “The most important thing to do is to keep button batteries out of reach of these young children,” Jacobs said. “Also, if a child swallows a button battery, make sure to get to the emergency room as soon as possible. The administration of honey is no substitute for rapid removal.”

Anfang RR, Jatana KR, Linn RL, Rhoades K, Fry J, Jacobs IN. “pH-neutralizing esophageal irrigations as a novel mitigation strategy for button battery injury,” The Laryngoscope, online June 11, 2018.