close   X

11/10/23 blog post

beware of button batteries

how to protect your child from a devastating injury

button batteries

In the winter, our children tend to play inside with toys more! During this time, beware of the tiny power source located inside most toys and other indoor objects that pose a huge threat.

In the last 20  years, there has been a disturbing increase in children swallowing these tiny power sources - button batteries. According to the National Poison Control Center, 23,656 kids under the age of 6 swallowed a button battery between 2009 and 2019 and  26 of those children died. 

Locally, in 2023, Dayton Children's Hospital saw 34 patients for swallowing or possibly swallowing a button battery. This happens much more commonly than many may think. 

how can I keep my child from swallowing a button battery?

The National Capital Poison Center says the top three items that batteries come from are hearing aids, games or toys and lights. But there are plenty of other items that can house button batteries.

Here are a few ways to take precautions and keep your child from accidentally swallowing a button battery.

  • Keep button batteries out of a child's reach. Most toys should have a screw that secures the battery compartment closed. 
  • If you can't put away a gadget that you know contains these batteries, then put a piece of duct tape over the battery compartment to keep small children from getting to the battery inside. 
  • Warn family members, friends and caregivers to do the keep their gadgets with button batteries out of reach of children as well.
  • Stay vigilant. This is one of the biggest deterrents to kids swallowing batteries  Constantly observe young kids when they are around battery-operated devices.

what do I do if I think my child has swallowed a button battery?

If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, get to the emergency department immediately

The longer a button battery sits against the tissue in a child’s throat, the more devastating the outcome will be. If it turns out to that your child didn't swallow anything, then the worst that can happen is you lost some time from your day. But if it is a  battery ingestion, you may have saved a life!

what happens if my child swallows a button battery? 

Many times, parents and grandparents aren’t aware their child has swallowed a button battery. 

The first sign that a battery has been swallowed is a symptom that can mimic a cold or a sore throat. Sometimes, it's not until the child starts to have trouble swallowing or breathing, that the caregiver realizes something is very wrong! By that time, the battery has done major damage!

“It looks like a little bomb has gone off in a child’s throat,” says Ravi Elluru, MD, PhD, pediatric ear, nose and throat doctor at Dayton Children’s. “There is an electrical reaction between the button battery and the lining of the throat that produces a reactive chemical. That chemical then eats away at the tissue.”

“You can see the indentation in the esophagus where the battery was and a lot of blackened damaged tissue around it," Dr. Elluru explains. “The larynx can be damaged, the nerves to the vocal cords can be paralyzed which can also make it hard to breathe, or the battery can burn a hole through the esophagus.

If any secretions leak from the esophagus into the chest, it can cause a serious infection of the chest.  That is rare, but a child can die within 12 to 24 hours if this occurs.”

star star star star star

Ravindhra G. Elluru, MD, PhD

division chief ear nose and throat (ENT)
schedule appointment
view full bio