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Ingestion of button batteries leads to serious injury or death

A new study released by Pediatrics magazine states that every three hours a child under 18 is admitted to the emergency room because of button battery ingestion. Button batteries are the small batteries that are used in calculators, cameras and many other small electronic devices. Over the last eight years, the number of times a child swallows one of these batteries has significantly increased and researchers do not know why.

The first documented fatality of button battery ingestion occurred in 1977, when a two and a half year old child swallowed a camera battery. Now, emergency rooms see approximately 3,289 children a year for button battery ingestion. The increase in these cases, which began in 1983, is linked to the increased use of the 20mm lithium coin cell as a household battery.

Many times, the battery will simply pass through the body, but it can also get “hung up” and cause tissue damage. The outside of the battery produces hydroxide, which will burn tissue.

To prevent your child from swallowing button batteries:

  • Discard button batteries with caution.

  • Do not allow your children to play with the batteries.

  • Keep the batteries out of children’s reach.

  • If a remote or other electronic device is not screwed shut, use tape to secure the battery compartment.

What you should do if your child ingests a battery:

  • Call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333.

  • Have the battery identification number ready, if possible. This can be found on the package.

  • Do not eat or drink.

  • Don’t induce vomiting.

  • Check stools until battery has passed.

  • In most cases, an x-ray is required.

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