Button batteries are small, coin-shaped batteries found in watches, calculators, and other small electronic devices.
These shiny batteries can attract infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, who easily can put them in their mouths or up their noses. When swallowed, button batteries can become lodged in the throat (esophagus) and cause choking or interfere with swallowing solid foods. When swallowed, a battery can travel through the digestive tract — or get stuck somewhere along the way — and cause serious and life-threatening injuries within just 2-3 hours.
If you have young children in your home, it's important to keep all batteries out of reach and to know what to do if a child swallows one. These guidelines can help.
Safe Battery Storage & Use
Store all unused batteries out of the sight and reach of children. Recycle or dispose of used batteries properly. Many communities have battery drop-off bins where you can take your used batteries.
- Check products that use button batteries to see if the battery compartment requires a screwdriver or other tool to open it, and make sure all battery compartments are securely closed.
- Keep products that use button batteries out of the reach of unsupervised children.
- Watch kids carefully whenever they use devices containing batteries.
Symptoms of Battery Ingestion
If a child swallows a button battery and it becomes lodged in the esophagus, the battery can react with saliva (spit) and cause serious damage in as little as 2 hours.
If you find a toy or device with a battery missing or you suspect your child might have swallowed a battery, look for these symptoms:
- nausea and vomiting
- abdominal pain
- breathing problems
- discolored or bloody stool (poop)
- throat pain
- refusal to eat or drink
What to Do
If your child has any symptoms associated with ingesting a battery, go to an emergency room immediately. Also go if you think your child swallowed a battery, but you're not sure or see no symptoms. It's best to err on the side of caution in these cases and have your child checked out.
Follow these guidelines:
- Call 911 or go to the ER immediately.
- Do not try to induce vomiting (make your child throw up).
- Don't let your child eat or drink.
- Tell the doctors that you believe your child swallowed a button battery. An X-ray will be done to see if the battery is in your child's body.
- Understand that if a battery is stuck in your child's body, it has to be removed to prevent further injury.
If you have young kids in your home, childproof as much as you can. Get down on your hands and knees in every room of your house to see things from a child's perspective. Be aware of your child's surroundings and what could be dangerous.
Of course, childproofing shouldn't take the place of parental supervision. Watching kids is the best way to prevent accidents from happening.
It's also a good idea to:
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich maneuver).
- Keep the following numbers near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
- toll-free poison control center number: 1-800-222-1222
- doctor's number
- parents' work and cellphone numbers
- neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other children in an emergency)
Even with these precautions in place, kids still can get hurt and accidents do happen. But being prepared will help you to act quickly and confidently in the event of an emergency.
Reviewed by: James S. Reilly, MD
Date reviewed: June 2014