Hidden danger in some holiday trinkets, cards, toys

Specialist warns parents about button battery hazard

Published On: Dec 09 2013 09:54:29 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 10 2013 06:45:00 AM EST

The holidays are full of lights and sounds. Some of which are made possible by button batteries.  Dr. Michael Benninger,  an ear, nose and throat expert at Cleveland Clinic, says button batteries may be small but they carry big risks -- and those risks are rising.

"We're actually seeing this gradual increase in these batteries being ingested and they are very, very toxic," he warned.

About 3,500 button battery ingestions are reported to us poison control centers each year.  They come in various sizes and bring life to a number of musical cards, ornaments, flameless candles and other holiday trinkets.  

If the button batteries can be removed from a device, it can cause serious injury or even death when swallowed by a small child.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most dangerous type of button batteries are about the size of a nickel and can easily injure or lodge in a small child's esophagus.  

"They can cause erosion of the esophagus or swallowing tube or in the stomach. They can obstruct an airway or they can obstruct swallowing," explained Benninger.

Accidental ingestions can happen quickly and be hard to spot.  Often, there are no symptoms until serious injuries have occurred. If your child complains of chest or belly pain, is gagging, coughing, choking or drooling - take them to the ER immediately.

According to The Battery Controlled, a partnership to raise awareness about the risk of coin-sized battery ingestion and share information with parents, if one is swallowed, you should follow these steps:

  1. Go to the emergency room immediately. Tell doctors and nurses that it might be a coin-sized button battery.
  2. If possible, provide the medical team with the identification number found on the battery’s package.
  3. Do not let the child eat or drink until an X-ray can determine if a battery is present.
  4. Do not induce vomiting


For additional information, you can contact the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at (202) 625-3333.