A new Energizer battery warns parents if their child has swallowed it

April 26, 2024

Almost two years after a report warned that children were swallowing batteries at an alarming rate, Energizer is releasing a new battery designed to alert parents if their child has swallowed one, reports The New York Times.

The new coin lithium battery features more secure packaging, a nontoxic bitter coating to discourage swallowing; and “color alert technology” that activates a blue dye when the battery comes into contact with moisture, like saliva, so parents and caregivers know that medical attention could be required.

The new battery was announced in a video last week by Energizer and Trista Hamsmith, whose 18-month-old daughter died after swallowing a button battery from a remote control.

Hamsmith founded a nonprofit organization focused on children’s safety; successfully advocated for legislation, known as Reese’s Law, that requires a secure compartment of the batteries in products that use them as well as stronger warning labels on all packaging; and now is working to make the batteries themselves safer.

Ingested coin or button batteries result in thousands of emergency hospital visits each year; according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which notes that “the consequences of a child swallowing a battery can be immediate, devastating and deadly.”

“A button cell battery can burn through a child’s throat or esophagus in as little as two hours if swallowed,” according to the agency.

Secure packaging and bitter coatings for batteries have long existed, but “the massive breakthrough here is the color alert technology, which helps give caretakers that indicator that something has happened,” Jeff Roth, the global category leader for batteries at Energizer, said in an interview on Wednesday, April 24. “The most significant part about this is getting help early in the process,” he said. “That’s really what the color alert technology allows the family to do.”

The new battery comes almost two years after a report published in the journal, Pediatrics, suggested that there was a growing problem in the United States with children swallowing the small, round, shiny batteries that power many electronic devices commonly found in family homes, including TV remotes, key fobs, thermometers and toys.

Reese Hamsmith underwent “countless surgeries and scopes and was intubated under sedation for 40 days” before she died in December 2020, according to Reese’s Purpose, the nonprofit organization founded by her mother.

The National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C., advises against inducing vomiting if it is suspected that a battery has been ingested. Instead, parents of children at least a year old should give them honey, immediately and while on the way to the hospital. Honey will coat the battery, delaying burns in the surrounding tissue. Since honey is not safe for children younger than 12 months of age, parents of younger children are urged to immediately get an X-ray.

Trista Hamsmith said in an interview on Tuesday that the color alert could have changed Reese’s story completely because the family had no idea the baby had swallowed a battery when she fell sick in October 2020. Hamsmith and her family rushed the little girl to the doctor, where they received a misdiagnosis of croup because the symptoms of swallowing a button battery—which include drooling, fevers, and difficulty drinking or swallowing—“mimics croup almost to a T,” she said.

The family took Reese home and noticed the remote’s missing battery. They rushed her to the hospital again, and “that was the start of our nightmare,” Hamsmith said. In all, Reese had the battery in her for a little over 30 hours.

“We were at the doctor within four hours, but we didn’t have a way to know that was in there. We didn’t have a way to let the doctors know,” she said. “So the blue dye, the color alert technology, is a game changer until we come up with a different battery that will be the fix.”

Research contact: @nytimes