Swallowed a Button Battery? Battery in the Nose or Ear?
Every year in the United States, more than 3,500 people of
all ages swallow miniature disc or “button” batteries. These are used to
power hearing aids, watches, toys, games, flashing jewelry, singing greeting
cards, remote control devices, and many other items. The National Capital
Poison Center in Washington, DC, operates a 24/7 hotline for battery
ingestion cases (202-625-3333).
CBS, The Early Show, March 3, 2010
Most button batteries pass through the body and are
eliminated in the stool. However, sometimes batteries get “hung up”, and
these are the ones that cause problems. A battery that is stuck in the
esophagus is especially likely to cause tissue damage.
An electrical current can form around the outside of the battery,
generating hydroxide (an alkaline chemical) and causing a tissue burn. When a battery is swallowed, it is impossible to know
whether it will pass through or get “hung up”.
If anyone ingests a battery, this is what you should
Immediately call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline
at 202-625-3333 (call collect if necessary), or call your poison center
If readily available, provide the
battery identification number, found on the package or from a matching
In most cases, 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
immediately. Most batteries move on to the stomach and can be allowed to
pass by themselves.) Based on the age of the patient and size of
the battery, the National Battery Ingestion Hotline specialists can help
you determine if an immediate x-ray is required.
Don't induce vomiting. Don't
eat or drink until the x-ray shows the battery is beyond the esophagus.
for fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, or blood in the stools. Report
these symptoms immediately.
Check the stools until the battery
Your physician or the emergency
room may call the National Button Battery Ingestion Hotline/National
Capital Poison Center collect at 202-625-3333 for consultation about
button batteries. Expert advice is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a
Button batteries may also cause
permanent injury when they are placed in the nose or the ears. Young
children and elderly people have been particularly involved in this kind of
incident. Symptoms to watch for are pain and/or a discharge from the nose or
ears. DO NOT use nose or ear drops until the person has been examined by a
physician, as these fluids can cause additional injury if a battery is