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The Dangers of Button Batteries

susan_harr5 years ago

Button batteries are small, round, flat batteries found in countless household items. They are typically 5 to 12 mm in diameter and 1 to 6 mm high. Despite their small size they can be deadly.

These batteries are extremely dangerous when swallowed. They can get lodged in the throat, esophagus, or intestine, and release hydroxide- a poisonous chemical that burns tissue. This can result in tissue damage, holes in the throat, and even death. It is difficult to identify a button battery poisoning because the symptoms are so common- upset stomach, vomitting, and fever. Button batteries may also cause permanent injury when they are placed in the nose or the ears. This happens most often with young children and elderly people. Symptoms include pain and/or a discharge from the nose or ears. This is very serious and requires immediate attention from a health care professional. The National Battery Ingestion Hotline estimates that:

  • Every year in the United States, more than 3,500 people of all ages swallow miniature disc or “button” batteries.
  • Because of the common nature of the symptoms, 60% of incidents involving button battery poisoning are misdiagnosed.

Button Batteries are Everywhere

One of the reasons button batteries are so dangerous is because of their widespread use. These batteries are in dozens of every day household items as well as clothing, jewelry, and even greeting cards. Some of the most common items include:

  • Games
  • Calculators
  • Remote controls
  • Hearing aids
  • Watches
  • Toys
  • Games
  • Flashing jewelry
  • Singing greeting cards
  • Remote control devices
  • Digital thermometers
  • Cell phones
  • Talking books
  • Electric toothbrushes

Tips for Protecting Children Against Poisoning

Button batteries are dangerous to people of all ages. Children, however, are at an increased risk because of their limited understanding of danger and their tendency to put things in their mouths. Tips provided by the National Capital Poison Center:

  • Never leave batteries sitting out.
  • 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, or that are closed with a child-resistant locking mechanism.
  • Be especially cautious with any product that contains a battery that is as big as a penny or larger (these are the most dangerous.)
  • 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.
  • Don't insert or change batteries in front of small children.
What to do in the Case of Button Battery Poisoning

Information provided by the National Capital Poison Center.

  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. 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.
  4. Don't eat or drink until the x-ray shows the battery is beyond the esophagus.
  5. Don't induce vomiting. 
  6. Watch for fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, or blood in the stools. Report these symptoms immediately.
  7. Check the stools until the battery has passed.
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