Every year in the United States, hundreds of 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
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 doesn’t move through
the body may press on internal tissue, causing bleeding and tissue damage.
Also, an electrical current can form around the outside of the battery,
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 swallows 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
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.)
for fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, or blood in the stools. Report
these symptoms immediately.
Watch 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
SAFETY TIPS FOR BUTTON BATTERIES
batteries are an important part of our daily lives.
safely and handle them carefully!
Tips for Protecting Young Children
leave batteries sitting out. Store spare batteries, and batteries to
be recycled, out of sight and reach of young children. If recycling
is not possible, wrap used batteries securely and discard them where
a child can’t find them.
household devices to be certain the battery compartment is secured
shut. Use strong tape to secure compartments that children can open
or that might pop open if the device is dropped. Only purchase
products that require a screwdriver or tool to open the battery
compartment. Batteries are everywhere.
- singing greeting cards
- talking books
- portable stereos
- handheld video games
- cell phones
- home medical equipment/meters
- flash and pen lights
- flashing or lighted jewelry or attire
- any other household item that is powered!
Be especially cautious with any product that contains a battery that
is as big as a penny or larger.
The 20 mm diameter lithium cell is one of the most serious problems
These problem cells can be recognized by their imprint (engraved
numbers and letters) and often have one of these 3 codes: CR2032,
If swallowed and not removed promptly, these larger disc batteries
can cause death -- or burn a hole through your child's esophagus.
children to play with batteries or with battery powered products
that have easily accessible batteries.
Make sure all hearing aids for children have child-resistant battery
compartments and make sure the lock is activated when the child is
wearing the aid.
members who wear hearing aids to the importance of keeping the
batteries out of reach of small children at all times. That
can be quite a burden since most hearing aid users remove the
batteries from the aids each time they take the aids off.
Don't insert or
change batteries in front of small children.
When possible, buy
batteries in blister packs as these are harder for children to open.
If a battery is
swallowed, call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at
202-625-3333, immediately. Prompt action is critical. Don’t wait
for symptoms to develop. Don’t eat or drink until an x-ray shows
the battery is beyond the esophagus. Batteries stuck in the
esophagus must be removed as quickly as possible as severe damage
can occur in just 2½ hours.
Tips for Protecting
Older Children and Adults:
Never put batteries in your mouth, to test, to hold, or for any
reason. They are slippery and easily swallowed.
Don't mistake batteries for pills. Don't store batteries near pills
or in pill bottles. Don’t leave them on bedside tables or
place them loose in your pocket or purse. Look at every medicine you
intend to swallow. Turn on the lights, put on your glasses, read the
label and look at the medicine itself.
If you use a hearing aid, these steps are especially important.
All too often, the tiny hearing aid batteries are ingested with or
instead of medications.
Avoid storing or leaving batteries where they might be mistaken for,
or swallowed with, food.
Don't leave batteries in drinking glasses or adjacent to nuts,
candy, popcorn or other finger foods.
If a battery is swallowed, call the National Battery Ingestion
Hotline at 202-625-3333, immediately for guidance.