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Button Batteries Are Dangerous When Swallowed

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​​​Button batteries can be found in a variety of electronic devices. Things like wristwatches, calculators, toys and even recorded birthday cards all use button batteries. Unfortunately, their small size means that they can be easily swallowed by children.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has singled out button batteries as the most harmful type of battery for young children if swallowed. They can get stuck in the esophagus, leading to serious injury and is the leading cause of death by ingestion. Poison control centers across the United States report that about 3,500 button batteries are swallowed each year.

The symptoms of battery ingestion include vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea, difficulty breathing and swallowing.

Many times, swallowed batteries pass through the intestines and safely exit the body. This is not always the case, however, as they can easily get lodged in the esophagus. Batteries stuck in the throat cause an electric current and can leak corrosive chemicals, like alkaline electrolyte, that can cause internal damage. When this happens, a buildup of the chemical hydroxide may occur, causing dangerous burns within a couple of hours. Unfortunately, the damaged caused can continue long after the battery is removed.

What To Do If a Child Swallows a Button Battery

If your child ingests a battery, this is what you should do:

  • Immediately call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 1-(202)-625-3333 or call your poison center at 1-(800)-222-1222.
  • Provide the battery identification number, if you have it, found on the package or from a matching battery.
  • An x-ray must be obtained right away to be sure that the battery has gone through the esophagus into the stomach. If the battery remains in the esophagus, it must be removed. Most batteries move on to the stomach and can be allowed to pass by themselves.
  • Don't induce vomiting and don't allow your child to eat or drink until the x-ray shows the battery is beyond the esophagus.
  • Watch for fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, or blood in the stools or vomit.
  • Check the stools until the battery has passed.

Swallowing batteries is dangerous. Search your home for devices that may contain button batteries. Secure button battery-controlled devices out of reach of children and keep loose batteries locked away.​