Navigate Up

Full Library - A-Z Index


Print This Page

Button batteries

Button batteries are tiny, round batteries usually used to power watches and hearing aids. Children often accidentally swallow these batteries or put up them up their nose, where the battery can be further breathed in (inhaled).

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative Names

Swallowing batteries

Where Found

  • Calculators
  • Cameras
  • Hearing aids
  • Penlights
  • Watches

Symptoms

If a person puts the battery up the nose and breathes it further in, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Breathing problems
  • Cough
  • Pneumonia (if the battery goes unnoticed)
  • Possible complete respiratory failure

A swallowed battery may cause no symptoms at all, but if it becomes stuck in the esophagus or stomach, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Bloody stools
  • Cardiovascular collapse (shock)
  • Chest pain
  • Gastrointestinal inflammation
  • Hole in the esophagus
  • Nausea
  • Metallic taste
  • Vomiting (possibly bloody)

Home Treatment

Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

Also, you can call the National Button Battery Ingestion Hotline (202-625-3333).

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:

  • An x-ray to locate the battery
  • Direct laryngoscopy or immediate surgery if the battery has been breathed in and is causing a life-threatening airway blockage
  • Endoscopy to remove the battery if it has been swallowed and is still in the esophagus or stomach
  • Removal of the battery immediately with bronchoscopy if the battery has been breathed into the lungs

If the battery has passed through the stomach into the small intestine, the usual treatment is to check another x-ray in 1 - 2 days to make sure the battery is moving along the GI tract.

The battery should then be followed with x-rays until it passes in the stool. If any symptoms develop, it may mean that the battery has moved back up into the stomach and will have to be removed with an endoscope.

Expectations (prognosis)

How well you do depends on the type of battery swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Most swallowed batteries, however, pass through the gastrointestinal tract without causing any serious damage.

References

Mahajan PV. Heavy metal intoxication. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 708.

Munter DW. Esophageal foreign bodies. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 39.

Litovitz T, Whitaker N, Clark L, White NC, Marsolek M: Emerging battery ingestion hazard: Clinical implications. Pediatrics 2010;125(6): 1168-1177. epub 24 May 2010.

Updated: 2/16/2012

Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com