As electronics get smaller and smaller, more of them are powered by tiny flat, round batteries known as button or coin cell batteries. These batteries, which run everything from key fobs to remote controls, are extremely dangerous to children and range in size from the width of a pencil eraser to the width of a quarter.

If swallowed, they can get stuck in a child’s throat, where saliva sets off an electric current. That causes a chemical reaction that can burn a child’s throat in just a couple of hours. If the battery isn’t removed quickly, it can cause serious damage and even death, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to child safety advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide, more than 2,800 kids are treated in emergency rooms each year after swallowing these batteries.


To prevent the worst from happening, follow these tips to keep the batteries out of your child’s hands and mouth.


Protect your child


Keep all items that have button cell batteries out of their reach. These can include items you might not think of, such as digital scales, flashing holiday jewelry, musical greeting cards, digital thermometers and flameless candles. If battery compartments don’t have a screw to keep them secure, tape them shut. Throw away old batteries with messy trash like cat litter or old food so kids won’t be tempted to retrieve them. Buy batteries in blister packs if you can. They’re harder for children to open. Share the dangers of button cell batteries with sitters, parents and anyone who spends time with your kids.


Symptoms of swallowing


If your child swallowed a button battery, you may notice signs like these, according to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:

  • Sudden crying
  • Drooling
  • Not wanting to eat or drink
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in saliva or stool


Treatment

If you think your child swallowed a button battery, take him to an emergency room right away.

  • Do not try to make him vomit — either manually or with medications.
  • Do not give her milk or anything else to eat or drink.
  • Don’t try the Heimlich maneuver. This could change the battery’s location and put it in an even more dangerous spot.

On your way to the ER or once you’re there, call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333. Your doctor may also do this. Experts at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, stress that getting to the ER comes first.

If possible, give the battery ID number (found on the package or a matching battery) to the ER doctors and/or the hotline.