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Button Battery Dangers

Button-style batteries are found in many of our household items. Remote controls, key fobs, singing cards are a few common areas. These small batteries pose a big hazard, however.

One child every 3 hours is treated in an emergency room after swallowing button-style batteries.

Keep your child safe around button-style batteries

They are small, slippery and extremely interesting to young children. These small, button-style batteries are found in many products in our homes.

When a child swallows a button battery, the saliva triggers an electrical current. This causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours. Here are a few key facts:

Facts about button-cell batteries

  • One child every 3 hours is treated in an emergency room after swallowing button-style batteries.
  • 70% of those cases involve children 12 years old or younger.
  • Batteries stop powering a device long before it runs out of a charge. These “dead” batteries can still harm a child if caught in his ear, nose or throat.
  • The symptoms may be tricky to recognize (they include coughing, drooling and discomfort).

Which products use button-cell batteries?

Because of the small size, many products use these style batteries for power. Here are some common products where a button-cell battery may be used:

  • Watches
  • Hearing Aids
  • Remote controls
  • Car key fobs
  • Singing cards
  • Digital scales
  • Flameless candles
  • Flashing jewelry

This is in no way a complete list – but it can give you an idea of the size and type of products you may have in your home.

If a battery is swallowed or placed in the ear or nose

Symptoms are vague. Go to the emergency room right away. Don’t wait for them to develop. Prompt action is critical.

Call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333, immediately.

  • If the battery was swallowed, don’t induce vomiting, 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 2 hours.
  • Batteries in the nose or ear also must be removed immediately to avoid permanent damage

What can I do to keep my child safe around products with these batteries?

Recognize that many products in your home contain these batteries. Here are a few steps to help keep your children safe:

Secure batteries in the product.
Keep loose batteries locked away, or place a piece of duct tape over the battery compartment to prevent small children from accessing the battery.

Alert family members and caregivers.
Educate family members and caregivers about the dangers. Prominently post the telephone number of the Battery Ingestion Hotline 202-625-3333.

Never put batteries in your mouth.
These batteries are slippery and small and can easily be swallowed – even by an adult.

Keep batteries away from food.
Don’t place these batteries close to food – where it can be mistakenly swallowed. Adults should never keep loose batteries on nightstands, near medication or in a purse.  Keep these types of batteries locked and away from children.

Special dangers of larger button cells
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.

Kids love to explore, and smaller children put things in their mouths. Take a few minutes to secure any batteries in your home and keep everyone safe. 

Ashley LeGrand-Rozovics, DO, MHA

Methodist Physicians Clinic - Hawthorne Court

Dr. LeGrand-Rozovics answers your questions about child health and parenting.  Becoming a physician was a life-long dream of Dr. LeGrand-Rozovics. As a child she was hospitalized with pneumonia. The compassionate care she received during that 2-week hospitalization sparked her interest in medicine.  Dr. LeGrand-Rosovics believes in treating her patients in the way she would want her family members to be treated. "When you have that perspective, you want to explain things dif ...

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