Be Battery-Aware This Holiday Season
You may think those electronic toys purchased to celebrate the season are safe for your little one, but have you considered what’s powering them? Inside hundreds of children’s toys and household items are button-cell batteries — those small, silver discs commonly found in watches. When swallowed, these batteries can pose serious health risks.
What can happen if my child swallows a battery?
“The main hazard of swallowing a button-cell battery is the damage it can cause to the esophagus,” said David Brumbaugh, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Digestive Health Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “When the tissue of the esophagus collapses around the positive and negative terminals of the battery, it can create an electrical current that is extremely toxic to human cells.”
What does the battery do inside the body?
As Dr. Brumbaugh explained, the electrical current created by a swallowed battery negatively affects the pH balance of the esophageal tissue and causes the cells to die. As this happens, the battery burns a hole through the wall of the esophagus and may eventually cause damage to blood vessels and respiratory organs located nearby. Batteries lodged in the esophagus should be removed immediately. According to Dr. Brumbaugh, button-cell batteries can cause a fatal injury when in the esophagus for as few as two hours.
Are today’s batteries more dangerous?
“Button-cell batteries are much more dangerous today than they were in the past,” Dr. Brumbaugh said. “Not only do they have higher voltages and longer shelf lives, but their unique size and shape make them more likely to become lodged in the throat when swallowed.”
Where can I find these batteries?
Button-cell batteries can be found in many household items, including:
• Digital thermometers
• Keychain remotes
• Laser pointers
• Musical greeting cards
• TV remotes
• Toys and toy remotes
• Weight scales
How can I help keep button-cell batteries out of my little one’s reach?
• Only buy electronics with battery compartments secured by screws. Periodically check these electronics to make sure the screws are tight.
• If possible, replace household electronics that have a loose battery compartment with more child-safe products.
• Store backup batteries in a place out of sight and reach of your child.
• Do not leave old batteries lying around.
What should I do if my child swallows a battery?
As Dr. Brumbaugh noted, a battery that is no longer strong enough to power a device can still
do damage when swallowed. If your child swallows a button battery, seek medical attention immediately.
Download our free mobile app for condition information and to find the nearest emergency department.