Prevent Button Battery Hazards at Home

— Written By Trudy Pickett and last updated by Adrian Gaskins

Small, coin-sized batteries can be found in products in nearly every home in America. From the mini-flashlight sitting on the table, to the remote control next to the TV, “button batteries” as they are commonly referred to, are in thousands of products used in and around the home. Young children and senior adults are unintentionally swallowing the button batteries and in some cases, the consequences are immediate and devastating.


A recent study found that button battery-related incidents resulting in severe injury and fatality have increased dramatically. In 2010, more than 3,400 children were reported to have ingested button batteries. The majority of reported incidents involve 20 mm diameter, or larger, 3 volt batteries. Occasionally, a swallowed battery will pass through the intestine. Most often, however, batteries that become lodged in the throat or intestine can generate and release hydroxide, resulting in dangerous chemical burns.

Incidents most often involve children younger than four years old and senior adults. In the majority of incidents, children gain access to batteries directly from musical greeting cards, games, toys, calculators, watches, remote controls, calculators, cameras, penlights and other items commonly left within a child’s reach. Senior adults have swallowed button batteries used in hearing aids after mistaking them for pills. Remote controls were the most common single source, with more than 37 percent of the tiny lithium batteries ingested coming from remote controls.


Parents often are unaware that a child has swallowed the button battery, which makes it difficult to diagnose the problem. In fact, in one study, more than 60 percent of reported incidents initially were misdiagnosed. Symptoms resemble ailments common in children, such as an upset stomach and fever, and in some incidents, there are no symptoms at all. If a button battery is ingested, immediately seek medical attention. If accidentally swallowed, the batteries need to be removed within two hours to prevent severe, and often permanent injuries.


The following steps are recommended to prevent battery ingestion:

  • Discard button batteries carefully.
  • Do not allow children to play with button batteries, and keep button batteries out of your child’s reach.
  • Caution hearing aid users to keep hearing aids and batteries out of the reach of children.
  • Never put button batteries in your mouth for any reason as they are easily swallowed.
  • Always check medications before ingesting them. Adults have swallowed button batteries mistaken for pills or tablets.
  • Keep remotes and other electronics out of your child’s reach if the battery compartments do not have a screw to secure them. Use tape to insure the battery compartment will remain closed. Bottom of Form
  • The National Battery Ingestion Hotline is available anytime at (202) 625-3333 or call the poison control center at (800) 222-1222.


Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission


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