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Different sizes of button batteries

How to Keep Kids Safe from Battery-related Injuries

By Dr. Cristina Baldassari, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT)

Thousands of children are seen in emergency departments each year in the U.S. for a battery-related injury. Young children are especially curious, and small, shiny objects such as button batteries are tempting. However, if ingested, button batteries can result in serious injury and sometimes death.

Button batteries can be found in various household items such as remote controls, games and toys, calculators, thermometers, key fobs, cameras, flameless candles, hearing aids, and bathroom scales. With more and more homes using small devices powered by button batteries, it’s no wonder the risk of battery-related injuries continues to rise.

To reduce the risk of injury, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using devices with secure battery compartments, where a tool such as a screwdriver is needed to access the battery. If the device does not have a secured compartment, be sure to tape it shut. Button battery compartments on many products are easily accessible, and batteries can just as easily fall out of the device when dropped.

Prevention is the long-term solution. Properly dispose of button batteries immediately after removing them from a device. Store new button batteries in a locked cabinet away from children.

Keep in mind, batteries hold a charge even after they stop powering a device and can still cause harm to a child if swallowed or lodged in the ear or nose. The clock is ticking from the minute the battery is lodged inside the body. Serious damage can occur in as little as two hours.

Initial signs or symptoms may not be apparent or may appear as something no different than a viral illness commonly seen in kids. Since many battery-related events are unwitnessed, parents and caregivers may be unaware that the event has even occurred.

Signs and symptoms of button battery Injuries include:

  • Wheezing.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Choking.
  • Coughing.
  • Gagging.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Decreased appetite. 
  • Vomiting.
  • Chest pain.
  • Bleeding, if the battery was placed in the nose or ear canal.

If you suspect your child has ingested a button battery, immediately take them to the nearest emergency department (ED) for evaluation and X-ray imaging. If your child is over 12 months old and you think they swallowed a button battery in the last 12 hours, you can give 2 teaspoons of honey before taking them to the ED. Repeat this up to 5 more times. Wait 10 minutes between each dose of honey. Stop, if your child vomits or cannot swallow. Do not delay going to the hospital to obtain honey. Do NOT make the child vomit or let them eat or drink.

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About Children's  Specialty Group Children's Specialty Group is the only pediatric multi-specialty practice serving southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The physicians of Children's Specialty Group base their practices at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and serve as faculty in the Department of Pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Learn more about our specialists here.

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