Lithium “Button” Batteries

Little boy exam There is an emerging danger hiding in your home — lithium batteries, also known as button batteries — causing injuries and death in children. When swallowed, these small batteries get stuck in the esophagus (throat). The saliva triggers an electric current which causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours.

Lithium batteries can be found in everything in your home. They are used to power remote controls, toys, musical greeting cards, calculators, watches and other electronics. Small children often have easy access to these devices, and many parents do not know there is a risk.

Incidents of ingesting button batteries are on the rise

  • More than 80 kids nationwide have suffered permanent damage from injuries caused by ingesting button batteries.
  • Fifteen children have died — 11 of them within the last six years.
  • In 2010, more than 3,400 kids swallowed button batteries.

What are the signs that my child has swallowed a button battery?

Signs that your child has swallowed a button battery may include:

  • A sudden onset of crying (some children may not be in pain)
  • Drooling
  • Decreased eating or drinking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarse voice
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Abdominal pain, blood in saliva and stool

The above symptoms can also be mistaken for another diagnosis. Parents or caretakers should know that these batteries can be found anywhere in the home and think of it as a possibility if a child is in distress.

Watch this video to learn more about the dangers of ingesting a button battery and what to do if you think your child has swallowed a battery.

What should I do if I think my child has swallowed a battery?

This is an emergency! Take your child to an Emergency Department, ideally one in a Children’s Hospital, immediately.

Is there anything I should not do if I think my child has swallowed a battery?

  • Do not give medications to make your child move his bowels or vomit.
  • Do not give your child anything to eat or drink.
  • Do not give milk; this will not prevent further injury.
  • Do not attempt the Heimlich maneuver, even if you saw your child swallow the battery. The battery could get stuck another area or change its location and increase the risk of injury.

How to protect your child from the dangers of button batteries

Keep your child safe by:

  • Knowing where the batteries are in the home
  • Securing them out of reach of children
  • Telling everyone you know about the risk
  • If you think our child swallowed a battery, seek medical attention immediately!