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Button Batteries

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 ingestion cases.

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 do:

  1. Immediately call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333 (call collect if necessary), or call your poison center at 1-800-222-1222.

  2. If readily available, provide the battery identification number, found on the package or from a matching battery.

  3. 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.)

  4.  Watch for fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, or blood in the stools. Report these symptoms immediately.

  5. Watch the stools until the battery has passed.

  6. 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 week.

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 involved.



Button batteries are an important part of our daily lives.

Store them safely and handle them carefully!

    Tips for Protecting Young Children

  •  Never 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.

  • Check all 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. 


  • TV remote control devices

  • garage door openers

  • keyless car entry devices

  • bathroom scales

  • parking transponders

  • toys

  • cameras

  • watches

  • PDAs

  • calculators

  • digital thermometers

  • singing greeting cards
  • talking books
  • portable stereos
  • handheld video games
  • cell phones
  • home medical equipment/meters
  • flash and pen lights
  • keychains
  • 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 when swallowed.

    • These problem cells can be recognized by their imprint (engraved numbers and letters) and often have one of these 3 codes: CR2032, CR2025, CR2016.

    • If swallowed and not removed promptly, these larger disc batteries can cause death -- or burn a hole through your child's esophagus.

  • Don't allow 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.

  • Alert family 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.


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