Button Batteries- So Small, Yet So Dangerous!

Button batteries seem to be increasing in popularity these days.  They power watches for years at a time and can make your greeting card sing. They are small, but mighty and are a blessing when I need to binge watch House or Criminal Minds.   And they are not just for those of us addicted to Apple TV or Roku.  They can power life saving devices like pacemakers, cardiac defibrillators and hearing aids. With all the good that they can do “cute as a button” cell batteries are making a bigger splash with the rise in fatalities from small children swallowing them.


In 2011, the National Capital Poison Center revealed 3,500 annual cases being reported and 11 deaths in the span of 2005-2011.  There are 7 times the incidents reported now than in 1985 and the introduction of lithium to extend the life of the battery makes swallowing them even more dangerous.

The symptoms of swallowing a button battery can range from not eating and drooling, to hoarseness, coughing, fever and respiratory symptoms.  Don’t adopt the wait and see method on this one.  The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia say  A button battery if swallowed does not present like swallowing a penny.  Button batteries and even more so lithium ones can burn holes in the esophagus and trachea resulting in the need for multiple surguries and in some cases the need for feeding and breathing tubes for the rest of their lives according to Dr. Toby Litovitz of Washington D.C.



For every time you have been irritated by those battery compartments with the screws (and we all have been!)- this is to keep small ones from getting access to those batteries.   But it is not only  children’s games and toys that pose a risk.  Other items to watch out for include: keyless remotes, wireless game controls, remote controls, toys, digital scales, digital thermometers, watches, greeting cards, calculators, and flashing jewelry and shoes.  (www.cpsc.gov) These and other items with button cell batteries should be keep out of reach of infants and toddles.  Consumer Reports and Dr. Litovitz added telephones, cameras, garage door openers, glucose meter, invisible fence dog collars, and flameless candles tot he list.

In a joint statement Energizer and Safe Kids USA issued the following guidelines for parents and care-givers:

  • Examine devices to make sure the battery compartment is secure.
  • Keep button batteries and devices out of kids’ sight and reach.
  • Go to the emergency room immediately if swallowing is suspected.
  • Call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333 with any questions


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