Beware Of Button Batteries


We’ve noted previously on The PediaBlog the devastating effects button batteries can cause when they are swallowed by young children. A new study published last week in Pediatrics found battery-related emergency department visits in the U.S. have been on the increase. From 2010 to 2019, there were more than 70,000 battery ingestions evaluated in hospital emergency rooms. James Lopilato reports the average age of patients seen for this potentially life-threatening accident was 3 years old:

The most common type of batteries involved were button batteries, which accounted for 84.7% of visits. These small disk-shaped batteries are becoming increasingly common due to their use in smaller electronics, such as toys, digital watches, hearing aids, and remote controls. These types of batteries are especially risky due to their size and the ease with which they can be removed from devices, the authors suggested.

In this study, in cases where the intended use of the battery was noted, most came from watches (29.7%) and toys/games (28.8%).

The most common action that led to an ED visit was ingestion (90%), followed by nasal insertion (5.7%), ear insertion (2.5%), and mouth exposure (1.8%).


Ashley Moore describes the ensuing chemical reaction after a child swallows a button battery:

Because of their size, candy-like shape and shiny metallic surface, button batteries have posed a risk for toddlers for decades. When the battery reacts with saliva and tissue of the esophagus, it creates a hydroxide-rich, alkaline solution that essentially dissolves tissue. Children with an esophageal button battery may present with symptoms of sore throat, cough, fever, difficulty swallowing, poor oral intake or noisy breathing. This can cause severe complications like esophageal perforation, vocal cord paralysis and erosion into the airway or major blood vessels. The longer it takes for the battery to be removed, the higher the risk for these children, particularly those without access to hospitals with specialized anesthesiologists and endoscopists experienced in removing foreign objects.


A few years ago, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia discovered that feeding kids honey at regular intervals until they reach the hospital helped reduce the degree of damage to the esophagus after button battery ingestion:

A team of ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists has demonstrated that eating honey after swallowing a button battery has the potential to reduce serious injuries in small children. Based on findings in laboratory animals, the research suggests that this common household product may significantly reduce morbidity and mortality from highly caustic batteries.

“The findings of our study are going to be put immediately into clinical practice, incorporated into the latest National Capital Poison Center Guidelines for management of button battery ingestions.”


***Please note that because of the risk of infant botulismINFANTS UNDER ONE YEAR OF AGE SHOULD NEVER BE GIVEN HONEY.***


Preventing little kids from getting their hands on button batteries and swallowing them has proven to be difficult, notes Lopilato:

“Young children use their senses to explore their environments and often put objects into their mouths, ear canals, or nasal passages,” Chandler and team explained. “As toddlers become increasingly mobile and curious, their risk of foreign body ingestion increases.”

“Unfortunately, despite all existing injury prevention efforts, battery-related ED visits remain too frequent,” Chandler and team wrote. “Regulatory efforts and adoption of safer button battery designs by industry to reduce or eliminate ingestion injuries in children are critically needed.”




(Google Images)