‘Tis the season for button batteries — California Poison Control urges extra caution 

Button batteries can be found year round in many common things such as watches, car key fobs and flameless candles.

But they are especially prevalent during the holiday season — and they are a big risk for children said California Poison Control. These flat, coin-shaped button batteries are in all kinds of holiday gifts and toys. They’re even in places you don’t expect to find them, such as musical greeting cards and blinking ornaments.

Unfortunately, curious children just can’t resist playing with the shiny, tiny button batteries. The sad result is that thousands of children swallow the batteries every year, and most have to go to the Emergency Room. A study published in the September 2022 issue of “Pediatrics” found that every 75 minutes in the U.S., a child under the age of 18 visited an ER because of a battery-related injury. The study, which analyzed data from 2010 through 2019, also found that 84 percent of patients were 5 years old or younger. Button batteries accounted for almost 85 percent of the ER visits.

“Button batteries are not only choking hazards, but they can also release toxic metals and acids that can burn holes in the mouth, throat, airways, stomach and intestines. In fact, a swallowed battery can burn through a child’s esophagus in just two hours. So, ingesting a button battery is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention,” said Cyrus Rangan, MD, a pediatrician and medical toxicologist with CPCS. “Burns and other injuries can even occur in children who put batteries into their nose and ears.”

To learn more about the dangers of button batteries see these CPCS videos: English and Spanish.

Prevention is critical. Here are some tips to help you keep your child safe

  • Always supervise children when playing with toys containing button batteries.
  • Don’t insert or change batteries in front of small children — little, shiny objects are irresistible.
  • Dispose of expired batteries immediately and safely.
  • Store replacement batteries well out of reach of children.
  • Secure battery compartments on all products; if possible select products with battery compartments that open only with a screwdriver or special tool.

If a battery is swallowed or placed in the ear or nose, call CPCS at (800) 222-1222 immediately.

About CPCS
Call Poison Control at (800) 222-1222 (number is the same in all states) for questions about poison encounters. Trained pharmacists, nurses and other providers are available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free, confidential and interpreters are available. Get weekly tips about safety by texting TIPS to 20121 for English or texting PUNTOS to 20121 for Spanish. Follow CPCS on Facebookand on Twitter @poisoninfo. CPCS is part of the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy and is responsible to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.