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A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Kids Safe Around Batteries

Batteries power many things we use every day, like toys, remotes and other devices around the house. But for young children, batteries can be very dangerous.

An increasing number of children are ingesting batteries, especially button batteries or lithium coin batteries. During the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of emergency room visits related to button and lithium coin batteries nearly doubled.

Both button and coin batteries are tiny, flat, circular batteries used to power many things around the house, like watches, key fobs, hearing aids, LED lights, monitoring devices, digital thermometers and even greeting cards that make a sound. 

“Button (or coin) batteries come in many sizes, but the ones that are 15mm or larger pose the greatest risk,” said Bryan Kuhn, PharmD, a pharmacist and poison education specialist with Banner Health. “Their compact size hides their true danger.”

If you have a little one at home – especially if they are under the age of 6 – find out the potential risks of ingestion, how to keep your child safe and what to do if you believe your child has swallowed a battery.

Why is it dangerous to swallow a battery?

The biggest danger of battery ingestion is not the metal it contains but the potential damage the battery can cause to the esophagus.

“Batteries lodged in the esophagus (the food pipe) can create pressure against the wall of the esophagus, leading to throat and chest pain and tissue damage,” Dr. Kuhn said. “The diameter of the battery is a critical factor, as larger batteries are more likely to become stuck and cause significant harm.”

After being removed from a device, batteries can still have a strong current. Even dead batteries can have the potential of releasing a current. The battery reacts with saliva and releases an electrical current that can burn a hole through the esophagus into the trachea (airway). 

“The long-term effects can be severe, including permanent injury to the esophagus,” Dr. Kuhn said. “It can cause strictures that cause the esophagus to narrow and tighten. This can result in problems with swallowing, digesting food properly and persistent vomiting and drooling.”

What are the signs and symptoms of my child swallowing a battery?

If you think your child swallowed a battery, they may or may not have obvious symptoms until harmful conditions develop. 

“When it comes to signs, there aren’t any you should wait for,” Dr. Kuhn said. “Once signs show up, typically the battery has caused injury.”

Some signs may include coughing, drooling, not wanting to eat, pain when swallowing, vomiting and fever. But the risk of delay is too significant not to err on the side of caution. Don’t wait.

  • If your child shows signs and symptoms, take them to the emergency room immediately. Call your local poison control center on your way to the hospital if you can. 
  • If you suspect your child swallowed a battery but are unsure, take them to the nearest urgent care or emergency room for an X-ray to see where the battery is located. If the battery has passed through the esophagus into the stomach, there should not be any health concern. Your provider will follow up to see if your child passed the battery in his or her stool (poop).
  • If your child is choking, call 911 and follow their directions on how to remove the battery safely.

Remember to call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 or the National Battery Hotline at 800-498-8666 for any questions or concerns.

Steps you can take to prevent a child from swallowing batteries

Your child may find batteries in many situations, such as playing with toys, handling remote controls or exploring household items. You can minimize the risk with the following safety tips:

  • Regularly assess your home and look for items that contain batteries. Make sure they are shut tight and secure. Don’t insert or change batteries in front of small children.
  • Keep batteries and battery-operated devices securely stored out of reach of children. For example, if you have a heart monitor, ensure it is locked up when not in use.
  • Consider replacing items with button or disc batteries with safer alternatives for young children. Choose items with battery compartments that only open with a screwdriver or have a child-safe closure.
  • Educate older children about the dangers of battery ingestion and the importance of handling batteries responsibly. 
  • When a battery dies, store it somewhere safe until you can safely dispose of it at a special drop-off location. Many grocery stores have battery disposal bins.


While batteries, especially button and coin batteries, are common in everyday products, they can pose a real danger to young children. Take proactive steps to safeguard your child by keeping batteries and battery-operated devices out of reach. 

If you have questions, talk to your child’s health care provider or a Banner Health specialist.

For more parenting safety tips, check out:

Safety Poison Prevention Children's Health Pharmacy