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Household Safety: Button Batteries

Article Translations: (Spanish)

Button batteries are small, coin-shaped batteries found in watches, toys, remote controls, calculators, and other small electronic devices. These shiny batteries can attract infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, who easily can put them in their mouths or ears or up their noses.

A swallowed button battery can get stuck in the throat (esophagus) and cause choking or interfere with swallowing solid foods. It also can travel through the digestive tract — or get stuck somewhere along the way — and cause serious and life-threatening injuries in just 23 hours.

If you have young children in your home, it's important to keep all batteries out of reach and to know what to do if a child swallows one. These guidelines can help.

Safe Battery Storage & Use

Store all unused batteries out of the sight and reach of children. Recycle or dispose of used batteries properly. Many communities have battery drop-off bins where you can take your used batteries.

Also:

  • Check products that use button batteries to see if the battery compartment requires a screwdriver or other tool to open it. Make sure all battery compartments are securely closed. Do not give a child any toy in which the battery compartment can be opened easily.
  • Keep products that use button batteries out of the reach of unsupervised children.
  • Watch kids carefully whenever they use devices containing batteries.

Signs of a Swallowed Battery

A swallowed button battery that gets stuck in the esophagus can react with saliva (spit) and cause serious damage in as little as 2 hours.

If you find a toy or device with a battery missing or you suspect your child might have swallowed a battery, look for these symptoms:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • coughing
  • abdominal pain
  • breathing problems
  • diarrhea
  • discolored or bloody stool (poop)
  • irritability
  • throat pain
  • refusal to eat or drink

What to Do

If your child has any signs associated with swallowing a battery, go to an emergency room immediately. Also go if you think your child swallowed a battery, but you're not sure or see no symptoms. It's best to err on the side of caution in these cases and have your child checked out.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Call 911 or go to the ER immediately.
  • Do not try to induce vomiting (in other words, don't make your child throw up).
  • Don't let your child eat or drink.
  • Tell the doctors that you believe your child swallowed a button battery. An X-ray can be done to see if the battery is in your child's body.
  • Understand that if a battery is stuck in your child's body, it has to be removed to prevent further injury.

Prevention

If you have young kids in your home, childproof as much as you can. Get down on your hands and knees in every room of your house to see things as kids do. Be aware of your child's surroundings and what could be dangerous.

Of course, childproofing shouldn't take the place of parental supervision. Keeping an eye on kids is the best way to prevent accidents.

It's also a good idea to:

  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich maneuver).
  • Keep these numbers near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
    • toll-free poison control center number: 1-800-222-1222
    • doctor's number
    • parents' work and cellphone numbers
    • neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other children in an emergency)

Even with these precautions in place, kids still can get hurt and accidents do happen. But being prepared will help you to act quickly and confidently in the event of an emergency.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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