Flashing “fidget spinners” pose a danger to young children who are at risk of swallowing button batteries, warn physicians. Some types of fidget spinners include light emitting diodes (LED) that are powered by these batteries. Two cases have been reported so far in which children have swallowed these and suffered burns to the esophagus.
“After treating our four-year-old patient with significant injury (from) ingestion of a fidget spinner disc containing a button battery, we were immediately of the mindset that this was an important advocacy opportunity because of how common this toy is in households with kids of all ages, and how poorly marked many of the toy’s packaging is regarding any warnings,” Dr. Yoseph Gurevich said. “We were also wondering if anyone else at other medical centers around the country has seen ingestion injuries from fidget spinners. Once we connected with our colleagues in Denver, Colorado, who also had a child with a similar injury, we knew this needed to reach the medical and lay public communities.”
Reports of fidget spinner misuse have already led the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue public safety tips related to use. “However, the focus was not particularly on ingestion risk, which is the most dangerous risk of any related to this toy if there is a button battery involved,” Gurevich said.
One child swallowed the central disk cap of a broken fidget spinner, including a small button battery and the other swallowed a battery that came out from a damaged disk. One child required emergency surgery to remove a piece of the broken toy, including a one-inch button battery and underwent a three-week hospital stay. “Any toy, and just as important any household object, that is powered by a button battery can be dangerous in the hands of children,” Gurevich said.
In May of last year, Manufacturer Ace of Hearts initiated a recall of its LED fidget spinner over fears its design would lead to serious injuries or even death. The product featured LED lights and was recalled for failing to conceal its button battery securely. With fidget spinners, it’s important to check the compartment housing the battery to make sure it is secure, said Gurevich, and the battery cover is tight, without chance of being removed by the child.
Gurevich added that it’s up to adults to keep dangerous products out of the reach of children, in general. “It is important for caregivers to evaluate what objects around the house are not intended for child use but could be reached by kids and lead to accidental ingestion,” he said. “If it is in the house and not in a locked cabinet or drawer, children will find it.”
Dr. Athos Bousvaros, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, said “Most button batteries have warnings, they’re difficult to open up and people are aware of them. But it sounds like with these cases of fidget spinners, the spinners were easy to break, the batteries were inside, (and) there wasn’t any warning about the battery.”
A swallowed battery could cause a child to bleed to death, said Bousvaros. “That’s really the risk of these button batteries. Basically, it’s very severely caustic,” he said. “In the worst-case scenario, which none of these cases had, you get the feared complication of the aorta-esophageal fistula, which is a well-known, though rare complication of button batteries ingestion and almost always results in death.”