Study authors advise giving honey to children who swallow button batteries
MelissaJenco, News Content Editor
A new animal study found honey and sucralfate can reduce injuries caused by button
battery ingestion. Researchers are hopeful the results will translate to children,
who swallow the shiny discs about 2,500 times each year.
“Our recommendation would be for parents and caregivers to give honey at regular intervals
before a child is able to reach a hospital, while clinicians in a hospital setting
can use sucralfate before removing the battery,” co-principal investigator Ian N.
Jacobs, M.D., director of the Center for Pediatric Airway Disorders at Children’s
Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), said in a news release.
Button batteries can be found in common household electronics like remote controls,
hearing aids, key fobs and cameras. When swallowed, they produce a chemical reaction
that can cause serious tissue damage and can be fatal, according to the study “pH‐Neutralizing
Esophageal Irrigations as a Novel Mitigation Strategy for Button Battery Injury” (Anfang
RR, et al. Laryngoscope. June 11, 2018, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/lary.27312).
Researchers aimed to find a weakly acidic viscous liquid that could protect the esophagus
after button battery ingestion. Investigators included ear, nose and throat specialists
from CHOP and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, several of whom are members of the AAP-affiliated
National Button Battery Task Force.
The team placed 3-volt lithium batteries in the esophagi of pig cadavers. Every 10
to 15 minutes, they irrigated the tissue with one of the test liquids — honey, sucralfate,
juice, maple syrup or sports drinks.
Honey and sucralfate were found to neutralize the pH to acceptable levels. The two
liquids then were compared with saline in live piglets, where they proved to be more
effective than saline and better protected the animals from serious injury. No animals
treated with honey or sucralfate experienced esophageal perforations compared to half
of those treated with saline.
“While future studies could help establish the ideal volume and frequency for each
treatment, we believe that these findings serve as a reasonable benchmark for clinical
recommendations,” Dr. Jacobs said. “Safely ingesting any amount of these liquids prior
to battery removal is better than doing nothing.”
However, authors cautioned against using them if the esophagus has been perforated
or the child has sepsis. They also recommended taking into consideration a child’s
allergies and age, as children under 1 year typically are not given honey due to a
small risk of infant botulism.
Parents can help prevent ingestions by making sure battery compartments are secure
and spare batteries are kept out of children’s reach.