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Button Battery Safety

If your child swallows a button battery, seek medical help immediately.

If your child swallows a button battery, seek medical help immediately.

When parents childproof their homes, they often overlook something that can result in a potentially fatal medical emergency – button batteries.

Though they may look like shiny candy to children, the small batteries that power hundreds of electronic devices including key fobs, hearing aids, calculators, toys and even greeting cards can be as deadly as poison when swallowed. If they lodge in the throat, saliva triggers an electrical charge and chemical breakdown that can burn the esophagus in as little as two hours.

The number of cases involving ingestion of button batteries has risen rapidly. The National Poison Center documented about 3,500 button battery ingestions each year and the cumulative deaths at 18.

The majority of fatalities and major injuries occur in children under 4 years of age who have ingested a battery with a diameter greater than ¾ of an inch. Based on the age of the patient, a battery that has reached the stomach may be allowed to pass, but in some cases button batteries have been known to become trapped in the intestinal wall, where they burn through the tissue.

You should always store and dispose of batteries where children cannot reach them.

Here are some tips to follow if you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery:

  1. Get your child to an emergency room immediately where an X-ray can determine if the battery is lodged in the throat.
  2. If available, bring the battery packaging or a matching battery to the emergency room.
  3. Do NOT induce vomiting or allow your child to eat or drink anything.

Button batteries can also cause permanent injury when they are placed in the nose and the ears. If your child has pain or discharge or you believe he or she has a battery lodged in either the nose or ears, seek medical assistance immediately. You can also make a collect call to the call to national battery ingestion hotline at (202-625-3333).