More than 3,500 incidents of button battery ingestion are reported to U.S. poison control centers each year, and these incidents may be vastly under-reported. The number of children with serious injury or death more than quadrupled in the past five years between 2006 and 2010, compared to the five years prior.
The most serious injuries are usually associated with 20 mm diameter batteries, about the size of a nickel, because they are likely to get lodged in a small child’s esophagus. If a coin cell lithium battery becomes lodged in the esophagus it can cause tissue injury and necrosis within hours, leading to perforation or death of not removed urgently.
Unfortunately, these batteries are easily accessible to children via common household products, such as small remote controls, garage door openers, bathroom scales, cell phones, flameless candles, watches, cameras, and digital thermometers. Parents and caregivers are urged to keep these devices out of reach and to take the child directly to the emergency department if the child exhibits symptoms such as wheezing, drooling, belly or chest pain, coughing, gagging, or choking.
National Capital Poison Center (NCPC) continues to gather detailed statistics to guide the standard-setting process, refine treatment guidelines and share expertise with physicians managing these cases. Please report all swallowing cases to NCPC (202-625-3333).