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Button/Disc Batteries: Small in Size but Pack a Strong Charge


  • Button/Disc batteries are in lots of electronic items in your home.
  • These batteries can cause burns, tissue injury, blockage and even death when swallowed.
  • Button/Disc batteries are also small enough for children to put into their nose or ear.
  • Program the Poison Help number into your phone for immediate assistance: 1-800-222-1222

Button batteries, also called disc or coin batteries, are small in size but can pack a strong charge. Each year, about 3,500 button battery cases are reported to U.S. poison control centers nationwide. Young children under the age of 4 are at greatest risk of injury.
There are three main causes for injury when a button battery is swallowed:

  • If lodged in the food-pipe (esophagus) or choked on and enters the airway (trachea), it can cause a blockage and pressure on sensitive tissues.
  • This pressure can result in a burn by forming an electrical current in the narrow space. Injury can occur rapidly in as little as 2 hours.
  • These burns can be serious, even life-threatening.
  • The battery contents can leak onto the tissue or in the stomach causing an additional risk of a burn.

Batteries that cause the most serious symptoms are nickel-sized 20 mm diameter batteries. If the battery passes the esophagus and enters the stomach, most, about 88 % of these batteries will pass uneventfully through the stool within several days to weeks. However, 12% of children younger than 6 years who ingested ≥ 20 mm diameter lithium batteries, experienced a major effect such as a perforation or worse.

Other concerns are batteries that have been placed into the small opening of a nose or ear. This can cause serious injury and will need prompt removal.


Button batteries are small, flat, round batteries that are found in items such as:

  • Remote controls
  • Hearing aids
  • Musical greeting cards
  • Electronic key fobs
  • Cameras
  • Games and toys
  • Flameless battery candles
  • Fit-bits and other watch-like devices
  • Holiday ornaments
  • Digital thermometers
  • Handheld gaming systems
  • Calculators
  • Many other electronic household items


It is very important to act quickly if someone has swallowed a button/disc battery. Call the poison center right away, we will give you the next steps to take. Do not force vomiting or give anything to eat or drink. Most cases will require an x-ray to find out where the battery is located along the digestive tract. The size of the battery is very helpful, there is a code on the packaging that identifies the size. If the battery is in the esophagus, it must be removed immediately. If it is in the stomach or beyond, it may be safe to watch for passage through the stool.


If there is any hint a battery has been swallowed; contact the poison center immediately not all children present with symptoms.

  • Sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing or refusal to take liquids
  • Hoarse voice or strained speech
  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Ear or Nose: bloody drainage, hearing loss, abrasions to ear or nose


  • Check your home for loose or spare button/disc batteries and devices that use them.
  • Make sure that the devices are secured shut. The best ones are those that require a screwdriver to open the battery compartment.
  • Keep these batteries locked away out of reach of children.
  • Watch children carefully whenever they use devices containing batteries.
  • When buying new batteries, make sure you pick brands that need scissors to open.
  • Never put batteries in our mouth to hold or test them. Even adults can easily swallow them.
  • Share the dangers of button batteries with your family, friends, daycare, and other loved ones.

If you suspect that a child or adult has swallowed a button battery, it is important to act fast. Don’t wait for symptoms to occur. Do not give the child anything to eat or drink until medical help is given. Do not induce vomiting. Call the Poison Help line to receive free, fast, and confidential poison information by calling one of our specially trained nurses and pharmacists at: 1-800-222-1222.
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