Roundup: More Kids Winding Up in the ER After Ingesting Tiny ‘Button’ Batteries; Record Number of Young Adults Using Marijuana and Psychedelics; and More…

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September 2, 2022


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More Kids Winding Up in the ER After Ingesting Tiny ‘Button’ Batteries

So-called “button” batteries, those small lithium batteries used to power all sorts of consumer devices commonly found in the home, are being ingested by little children in ever-larger numbers, according to a new study published this week in the journal Pediatrics. Children under five were at highest risk, the study says, especially toddlers between the ages of one and two, who often put things they find into their mouths.

Despite public information campaigns warning parents about the dangers, an estimated 7,032 visits were made to emergency rooms as a result of battery-related injuries from 2010 to 2019, the study notes. That’s more than twice the number of visits as there were from 1990 to 2009—in half the amount of time. Button batteries were responsible for the injuries in more than 87 percent of the visits in which battery type could be determined, the study said.

The new study analyzed data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which tracks emergency room visits in more than 100 hospitals in the United States. The analysis found ingesting the battery accounted for the majority (90 percent) of these battery-related emergency room visits, followed by putting batteries into the nose (5.7 percent), ears (2.5 percent) and mouth without swallowing (1.8 percent).

Button batteries, which come in different sizes, power an array of things in and around the home, according to the National Poison Control Center, including:

• Car key fobs

• Smartwatches

• Calculators

• Step counters and athletic trackers

• Digital thermometers

• Handheld games and toys

• Light-up bouncing balls

• Talking and singing books

• Audio greeting cards

• Hearing aids

• Mini remotes

• Penlights

• Laser pointers

• Flameless candles

• Flashing jewelry

• Holiday ornaments

Even after removal from the device they’re powering, lithium button batteries still have a strong current. When the battery gets stuck in a child’s throat, saliva can interact with the current, causing “a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours, creating an esophageal perforation, vocal cord paralysis or even erosion into the airway or major blood vessels,” warns a pediatric hospital in Philadelphia.

The National Poison Control Center says that the larger button batteries – such as 20mm-diameter lithium cell batteries, which often have one of these three codes: CR2032, CR2025 or CR2016 – pose the most serious risk. “If swallowed and not removed promptly, these batteries can cause death or burn a hole through your child’s esophagus,” the Center says.

Button batteries in the nose or ear also must be removed immediately to avoid permanent damage, the Center advises, as they can cause perforation of the nasal septum or the eardrum, hearing loss and facial nerve paralysis.

In 2010, one-year-old Emmett Rauch ate a button battery that had fallen out of a DVD player remote, according to his parents, Karla and Michael Rauch. “The battery literally burned a hole through his esophagus into his trachea (airway), allowing his stomach bile to reflux into his lungs,” the couple shared on the website for Emmett’s Fight Foundation, a nonprofit foundation they created to educate other parents on the dangers of button batteries. The battery also burned the nerves of Emmett’s vocal cords, and he had to undergo six surgeries over five years to repair the damage, including the replacement of his entire esophagus using a portion of his bowel.

Signs of battery ingestion can look like the child swallowed a coin, so be wary, experts say. Typical behavior can include wheezing, drooling, coughing, vomiting, chest discomfort, refusal to eat, or gagging when attempting to drink or eat. But for some children, like Emmett Rauch, it can take days before symptoms are severe enough to notice.

If you suspect your child has swallowed a battery or put one in their nose or ear, don’t wait for symptoms to develop, doctors say. Immediately call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 800-498-8666. Also, don’t give your child anything to eat or drink until an X-ray can confirm that the battery has moved beyond the esophagus, the National Poison Control Center notes.

Record Number of Young Adults Using Marijuana and Psychedelics

According to an annual survey supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), marijuana and hallucinogen use among young adults reached an all-time record last year, after having leveled off during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.

The online survey of people ages 19 to 60 was conducted from April to October 2021. Marijuana and hallucinogen use in the past year reported by young adults 19 to 30 years old increased significantly in 2021 compared to five and 10 years ago, reaching historic highs in this age group since 1988, according to the Monitoring the Future survey.

The mounting use of marijuana in young adults was especially notable, according to substance use research experts. The survey found that 43 percent in the 19-30 age group reported using cannabis within the last 12 months, up from 34 percent in 2016. In 2011, that figure was 29 percent. Daily marijuana consumption (defined as 20 or more times in the last 30 days) also jumped significantly, to 11 percent from 6 percent in 2011. Increases in use also occurred among people ages 35 to 50, according to the survey.

Experts say the normalization of marijuana has helped persuade many young people that it is harmless, noting that the surge in marijuana use has occurred in tandem with a rise in the number of states that have legalized recreational use. Over the past decade, 19 states have legalized marijuana while 13 others, including Florida, now allow the medical use of cannabis.

A similar dynamic is also at work with psychedelics, experts say. The use of hallucinogens had been stable for decades but in 2021, eight percent of young adults reported that they have used psychedelics. While that number may seem low, it represents a significant jump over 2011 when just three percent reported having used psychedelics, and it is a record high since the category was first added to the annual survey in 1988.

“Increasing media coverage and social media chatter about the potential therapeutic value of ketamine, psilocybin mushrooms and ecstasy have helped chip away at long-held taboos that were fostered during the nation’s failed war on drugs,” researchers say about the trend.

Experts say that, overall, the findings reflect a number of disparate trends affecting young Americans. They include the devastating mental health effects of the pandemic; the increased availability of legal marijuana; and the emerging therapeutic embrace of psychedelics to treat depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological problems.

“What they tell us is that the problem of substance abuse among young people has gotten worse in this country, and that the pandemic, with all its mental stressors and turmoil, has likely contributed to the rise,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which publishes the annual Monitoring the Future survey.

Study: Religion Linked to Better Heart Health Among Black Americans

Research has consistently shown that health among Blacks and African-Americans in the U.S. is generally poorer than among non-Hispanic Whites, and that death rates from cardiovascular disease are higher in African-American adults than in White adults. While there are a number of reasons for these health disparities, new research shows that a person’s faith can play a positive role in their cardiovascular health.

According to a study published last week in the Journal of the American Heart Association,

Black and African-American adults who participate in frequent religious activities or hold deeper spiritual beliefs are more likely to score higher in indicators linked to good heart health than those who don’t.

Researchers found that “more religious participants” had better scores for blood pressure, cholesterol and other metrics known to influence cardiovascular health. Attending religious services, for example, was linked to a 15 percent higher likelihood of achieving an “intermediate” or “ideal” composite cardiovascular health score, which comprises eight measures, including diet, physical activity, sleep and nicotine exposure.

The study looked at survey responses and health screenings from 2,967 African Americans between the ages of 21 and 84 living in the tri-county area of Jackson, Mississippi, an area known for the strong religious beliefs of its inhabitants. The analysis did not include participants with known heart disease.

According to the study’s lead author, LaPrincess C. Brewer, M.D., participants were grouped according to self-reported religious behaviors by health factors. Researchers then estimated the odds of them achieving heart-disease prevention goals. Dr. Brewer says they were surprised by the findings that multiple dimensions of religiosity and spirituality were associated with improved cardiovascular health “across multiple health behaviors – some of which are extremely challenging to modify, such as diet, physical activity and smoking.”

One hypothesis? Both the practice of religion and the behaviors associated with better cardiovascular health – such as adherence to physician recommendations for behavior change, not smoking and not drinking excessively – require discipline, conscientiousness and a willingness to follow the guidance of a leader.

Dr. Brewer says their findings highlight the substantial role that culturally tailored health promotion initiatives and recommendations for lifestyle change may play in advancing health equity. “The cultural relevance of interventions may increase their likelihood of influencing cardiovascular health and also the sustainability and maintenance of healthy lifestyle changes,” she says.

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