Piles Bouton
Daily life
1 min

If your child swallows a button battery, every minute counts!

Every year, more than a thousand children accidentally swallow button batteries. This can have serious, sometimes fatal, consequences, especially if it goes unnoticed. Why is this dangerous? And most importantly, what should you do if your child swallows a button battery?

What are button batteries, and what objects contain them?

Button batteries are flat circular batteries.

Several everyday objects contain them:

  • certain electric toys,
  • remote controls,
  • car keys,
  • thermometers,
  • watches,
  • cameras,
  • calculators,
  • kitchen scales,
  • musical greeting cards,
  • hearing aids, etc.

Why are button batteries dangerous?

Button batteries are very dangerous if swallowed because they can become lodged in the oesophagus. Within the first two hours, they can cause very deep internal oesophageal burns due to the release of toxic substances, which can lead to death.

Contrary to popular belief, in most cases, when a child swallows a button battery, it does not block their breathing. The major risk is that the battery may become lodged in their oesophagus, causing internal burns that can be fatal. Even if you are not sure whether your child has swallowed a button battery, immediately call a poison control centre or the emergency services (dial 15 in France). It is a life-threatening emergency.

Magali Labadie
a medical toxicologist at the poison control centre of Bordeaux University Hospital.

Which population groups are the most commonly affected by these accidents?

The majority of accidents occur in children aged five and under, when they grab objects that they can reach on their own and that contain these batteries and then put them in their mouths. The larger the diameter of the button battery, the greater the risk of it becoming lodged in the oesophagus and releasing its toxic substances.

What should you do in the event of ingestion or suspected ingestion?

In the event of ingestion, even when only suspected, every minute counts:

  • Immediately call a poison control centre or the emergency services (dial 15 in France) and tell the operator explicitly that a child has swallowed a button battery,
  • Do not give your child anything to eat or drink, and do not try to make them vomit,
  • Keep the packaging or object that contained the button battery, to show it to the doctor.

How can these accidents be prevented?

  • Keep button batteries, including used batteries, out of the reach of children;
  • Try and purchase appliances whose battery compartments are secure (fastened with a screw or needing two independent manoeuvres to open them);
  • Check that the battery compartment is properly secure and cannot be opened, and if this is not the case, keep the object containing the batteries out of the reach of children;
  • Whenever possible, purchase new button batteries sold with secure packaging.

In French