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First Aid for Dry Cell Battery Poisoning

Last updated March 1, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Dry Cell Battery Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of any dry cell battery or battery parts. The exposure may also be through smoke inhalation while burning the batteries.


What is Dry Cell Battery Poisoning?

  • Dry cell batteries are common portable devices that supply power by converting chemical energy to electrical energy. They are simply referred to as dry cells. They come in many forms and sizes (including button-sized)
  • There are several types of dry cell batteries that include zinc-carbon, nickel-cadmium, lithium-iron-disulfide, and nickel-metal-hydride batteries. They are either rechargeable or non-rechargeable and go by the notations AA or AAA batteries
  • Dry cells are used in calculators, remote-controlled or battery-operated toys, watches and clocks, flashlights, etc.
  • Dry Cell Battery Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of any dry cell battery or battery parts. The exposure may also be through smoke inhalation while burning the batteries
  • 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)

Dry Cell Battery Poisoning may be also referred to as the following:

  • Dry Cell Poisoning
  • Dry Cell Battery Toxicity

What are the Causes of Dry Cell Battery Poisoning?

  • Dry Cell Battery Poisoning is caused by the ingestion of dry cell battery components. The exposure may also be through smoke inhalation from burnt batteries, or dust inhalation from broken batteries
  • 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 i.e., whether acidic, alkaline, lithium type, etc. Some of the toxic compounds include manganese dioxide, sodium and potassium hydroxide, and ammonium chloride

Note: The compound can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dry Cell Battery Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others, depending on the type of chemical in the battery and the amount swallowed or inhaled. The signs and symptoms of Dry Cell Battery Poisoning may include:

When an acidic dry cell battery is ingested, it may result in:

  • Severe burning and associated pain in the mouth, throat, and food-pipe
  • Unable to speak
  • Swollen limbs (ankles and feet)
  • Muscle weaknesses; cramping
  • Stiff or rigid muscles; unable to walk
  • Low level of cognition and alertness
  • Tremors or shaking

When an alkaline dry cell battery is ingested, it may result in:

  • Severe burning and associated pain in the mouth, throat, and food-pipe
  • Unable to speak or breathe properly due to swollen throat; drooling from the mouth
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure (hypotension)

When the dust, smoke or burning fumes are inhaled, the signs and symptoms may include:

  • Headaches and sleeping difficulties
  • Unable to speak
  • Itchy sensation
  • Muscle weaknesses, affecting the legs; muscle cramping
  • Stiff or rigid muscles; unable to walk
  • Numbing sensation on the fingers and toes
  • Lung conditions including bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Low level of cognition and alertness

How is First Aid administered for Dry Cell Battery Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Dry Cell Battery Poisoning:

  • 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 such as the compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Carefully remove the individual from the exposure area
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • If skin exposure or involvement of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for at least 15 minutes)
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Following an ingestion of the substance, immediately give water or milk to drink (if instructed by the healthcare professional)
  • In case of symptoms that indicate difficulty in swallowing including vomiting or decreased alertness, do not give anything by way of mouth
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the compound bottle/container to the ER

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 if any battery piece is obstructing the tract
  • Medically manage symptoms and provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line
  • In case of obstruction in the bowel by large battery pieces (that cannot pass through stool), a surgery may be necessitated

Who should administer First Aid for Dry Cell Battery Poisoning?

First aid for Dry Cell Battery Poisoning 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 Dry Cell Battery Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Dry Cell Battery Poisoning is dependent on the amount of substance consumed, time between consumption and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • Most cases of ingestion are mild and severe symptoms are not observed. In case of complications, such as severe exposure to chemicals or blocked intestinal tract, the outcome depends on speedy and appropriate treatment

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 Dry Cell Battery Poisoning be Prevented?

Dry Cell Battery Poisoning 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 30, 2017
Last updated: March 1, 2018