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First Aid for Button Batteries Swallowing

Last updated March 2, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Button Batteries Swallowing is the accidental or intentional swallowing of button batteries. Swallowing such batteries can potentially cause serious injuries in children. Small children are also known to insert these into their nostrils.


What is Button Batteries Swallowing?

  • Button-sized batteries are dry cell batteries that are used as a portable source of power. These tiny cells are round and the size of a small peanut or coin (but thicker), and are generally used in watches and small electronic devices
  • Button Batteries Swallowing is the accidental or intentional swallowing of button batteries. Swallowing such batteries can potentially cause serious injuries in children. Small children are also known to insert these into their nostrils
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

What are the Causes of Button Batteries Swallowing?

  • Button Batteries Swallowing is caused by the ingestion/swallowing of button batteries. The condition is commonly seen in young children
  • Children are also known to insert these into the nose resulting in breathing difficulties and associated symptoms
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • The poisonous component of the battery depends on the type of battery. However, the lithium type (20 mm size) is known to cause severe burn injuries

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Button Batteries Swallowing?

The signs and symptoms can vary from one individual to another and depends upon the type of button cells swallowed. In many, there may not be any significant symptoms, apart from obstruction of the food-pipe or airways.

The signs and symptoms of Button Battery Swallowing may include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting (sometimes, blood in vomit)
  • Blood in stool
  • Different taste in the mouth due to discharge of chemicals from the battery
  • Severe burning and associated pain in the throat and food-pipe; in some cases, the chemicals may cause holes in the food-pipe
  • Swollen stomach and intestines
  • Chest pain
  • Cardiovascular shock

The signs and symptoms of button battery insertion into the nose may include:

  • Cough
  • Breathing difficulties; complete obstruction of the airways
  • Pneumonia may develop over time

How is First Aid administered for Button Batteries Swallowing?

First Aid tips for Button Battery Swallowing:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency help number immediately, for emergency assistance
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information of the event, the substance and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the battery type to the ER, if known

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Monitor vital signs
  • Imaging studies (X-rays) of the gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract, to assess location of the button battery, and whether it is obstructing the tract
  • Use of bronchoscopy to remove the cell from the lungs
  • Use of endoscopy to remove the cell from the stomach or food-pipe
  • Medically manage symptoms and provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line
  • In case of obstruction in the bowel or airways by the button cell, a surgery may be necessitated

Note: The passage of the battery down the GI tract is monitored each day, to see if it is causing any obstruction. In case of a blockage, a surgery is planned.

Who should administer First Aid for Button Batteries Swallowing?

First aid for Button Battery Swallowing is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who is affected, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Button Batteries Swallowing?

  • The prognosis of Button Battery Swallowing is dependent on the type of button battery swallowed, time between consumption and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • In most cases of ingestion, the battery passes through the stomach, the intestines, and are eliminated from the body in the stool
  • However, some cases may be severe, especially when lithium batteries are involved. And, this may result in complications, such as perforated gastrointestinal tract. In such cases, the outcome depends on speedy treatment. Deaths are known to occur, in some cases

In general, toxicities are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Button Batteries Swallowing be Prevented?

Button Battery Swallowing can be prevented by:

  • Always following instructions for usage of any household product
  • Keeping dry cell batteries, especially button-sized cells, out of children’s reach
  • Disposing used dry cells in the correct and recommended manner
  • Being aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, amount and time of consumption of the substance
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 29, 2017
Last updated: March 2, 2018