Batteries can be a significant hazard as they are found in every household and the caustic material inside of the battery can lead to burns. But not all batteries are created equally, and there is a subset of batteries that frightens every specialist at IPC: button batteries.
Button batteries can be found in a variety of products including toys, hearing aids and musical greeting cards. Their small size, ranging from less than 12 mm to larger than 20 mm, makes them easy for children to ingest. These batteries can become lodged in the esophagus, causing a life-threatening medical emergency.
Burns from button batteries can develop within 2 hours of exposure. Burns are thought to be caused by:
Symptoms of a button battery lodged in the esophagus include:
If a button battery is unknowingly swallowed by a toddler, the symptoms may be mistaken for a simple cold.
While not as common, button batteries can still cause damage if a child sticks one up their nose or in their ear, of if a battery becomes stuck in their clothing and presses against the skin.
IPC also receives calls on adults ingesting button batteries. Typically it’s an elderly patient ingesting a hearing aid battery when either confused or distracted.
Honey can prevent or delay the development of esophageal burns.
If you have a suspected exposure, please call IPC immediately at 1-800-222-1222 for management guidance. You can also contact National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 1-800-498-8666.