What Are Button Batteries?

Button batteries are small, shiny, coin-shaped batteries. They're used in devices like watches, toys, remote controls, flameless candles, holiday decorations, and hearing aids. They're dangerous for toddlers and kids, who easily can put them in their mouths, ears, or noses.

A button battery put in a child's mouth can get stuck in the windpipe and block breathing. Chemicals in the batteries can cause serious burns when swallowed or stuck in the body. A swallowed button battery or one that's stuck in the nose or ear can cause a very serious injury.

A swallowed button battery or one in the nose or ears is an emergency.

Safe Battery Storage & Use

Store all batteries where kids can't see or reach them. Recycle or throw out used batteries properly. Many communities have battery drop-off bins where you can take used batteries.

Also:

  • Make sure all battery compartments are securely closed with a screw. Do not give a child any toy if the battery compartment can be opened easily.
  • Watch kids carefully whenever they use devices containing batteries.

What to Do if There's a Missing or Swallowed Battery

A button battery stuck in the body is an emergency.

  • Go to the ER right away or call 911 if a button battery is missing or you think your child might have swallowed a battery. Don't wait until you see the signs of a swallowed button battery before getting help.
  • If it's quickly available, give 5–10 ml of honey on your way to the ER, but only if:
    • The battery was likely swallowed in the last 12 hours.
    • Your child is 12 months old or older, not allergic to honey, and is acting normally.
  • If you can, call the national poison control hotline (1-800-222-1222) for help on your way to the hospital.
    But do not delay getting your child to the hospital to make the call or find honey.
  • Tell the nurses and doctors in the ER that you believe your child swallowed a button battery. An X-ray can show if the battery is in your child's body.

Don't make your child throw up. The battery could cause injury on the way out. Don't let your child eat or drink except for the honey.

What Are the Signs of a Swallowed Battery?

A child who has swallowed a button battery might:

  • drool
  • feel sick to the stomach
  • throw up
  • have a fever
  • be coughing or have breathing problems
  • have belly pain
  • have diarrhea
  • have very dark or bloody stool (poop)
  • be fussy
  • have throat pain
  • refuse to eat or drink

If the battery is stuck in the ear or nose, you might see blood or other drainage.

Be Prepared

If you're expecting a baby or already have a child, it's a good idea to:

  • Childproof your home. Get down on your hands and knees in every room of your home for a kid's-eye view. Remove or lock away items that could be dangerous.
  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the age-appropriate Heimlich maneuver so you are ready in case of 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. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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