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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.
- Hearing aids
If a person puts the battery up the nose and breathes it further in, the following symptoms may occur:
A swallowed battery may cause no symptoms at all, but if it becomes stuck in the esophagus or stomach, the following symptoms may occur:
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
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
- EKG (heart tracing) for more serious cases
- 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 in to 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 to 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Last reviewed on 1/24/2014
- Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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