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Button Batteries Are Dangerous When Swallowed

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Button batteries are the coin-size batteries found in many electronic devices, like wristwatches, calculators, toys or even recorded birthday cards use button batteries. 

Button batteries are the most harmful type of battery if swallowed by young children, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). 

What makes button battery ingestion such a risk for children? The small size of these batteries means they are easy to swallow. They can get stuck in the esophagus (throat), leading to serious injury. They are 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.

Button Battery Ingestion Symptoms

The symptoms of battery ingestion include:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing

Complications of Button Battery Ingestion

In many cases, the battery passes through the intestines and exits the body safely. However, this is not always the case. They can easily get lodged in the esophagus and lead to dangerous side effects. 

Batteries stuck in the throat cause an electric current and can leak corrosive chemicals, like alkaline electrolyte. These corrosive chemicals can cause internal damage due to the buildup of hydroxide, a chemical that can cause dangerous burns within a couple of hours. Unfortunately, the damage caused may continue long after the battery is removed from the body.

What To Do If a Child Swallows a Button Battery

If your child ingests a battery, take the following steps:

  • Immediately call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 1-(800)-498-8666 or call your poison center at 1-(800)-222-1222.
  • Provide the battery identification number, if you have it. It can be 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.
  • Do not induce vomiting.
  • Do not allow your child to eat or drink until after the x-ray. If the battery has passed through the esophagus to the stomach, your child may eat or drink.
  • Watch for physical symptoms, including fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, or blood in the stools or vomit.
  • Check your child's stools until you know the battery has passed.

How to Prevent Children from Swallowing Batteries

Swallowing batteries is dangerous - no matter the size. Follow these tips to keep your children safe.

  • Search your home for devices that may contain button batteries. Do not allow children to play with toys or devices containing these batteries unsupervised.
  • Secure button battery-controlled toys and devices out of reach of children.
  • Keep loose batteries and replacement batteries securely locked away.