Battery ingestion

Throughout the years, gadgets and electronic toys are becoming smaller in size. Power is provided by highly compact, top performance batteries that are in coin or pill shaped batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, zinc, cadmium, silver, nickel and lithium. These contain concentrated solutions of caustic electrolytes such as sodium hydroxide or potassium. Due to their compact size, it increases the cases of battery ingestion.

Batteries that are lodged in the esophagus should be removed right away. It can cause damage by their pressure against the wall of the esophagus from leakage of caustic alkali and the electric current that they generate. Injury after battery ingestion can occur in a short time. After a few hours, full-thickness burns can occur.

Causes of battery ingestion

  • Disk battery ingestion typically occurs among children younger than 5 years old and also in elderly individuals.
  • Oftentimes, individuals accidentally swallow a battery since some hold it in their mouth when changing batteries on devices.
  • Young children can eat batteries lying loose after removed from certain devices. In some cases, batteries are mistaken as a pill and ingested.

Symptoms of battery ingestion

Always bear in mind that battery ingestion might not be obvious or symptomatic until the harmful conditions develop. This is why medical history and X-ray results are vital in forming a diagnosis. An individual who has swallowed a disk battery will have the following symptoms.

battery ingestion

Abdominal pain is one of the symptoms of battery ingestion.

  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Retching
  • Low-grade fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Persistent drooling
  • Rash if a nickel-based battery is ingested
  • Difficulty breathing if the battery blocks the airway
  • Bloody or dark-colored stools

Cells that contain mercury tend to fragment, but there are no clinical cases of mercury poisoning reported. If mercury poisoning is suspected, it includes excitement, lethargy, tremors and rash in the diaper region.

When to seek medical care

Battery ingestion is considered as a medical emergency. It is important to take the individual directly to the nearest emergency department.

Treatment for battery ingestion

The suitable treatment at home for an individual who has accidentally swallowed a disk battery is to avoid giving anything by mouth and take him/her to the nearest emergency department in your area. If possible, you can bring along a sample of the battery that was ingested. Take note that all disk batteries contain an imprinted code that can be used to determine the manufacturer, contents and the actual size of the battery.

In case the battery could not be found or retrieved, you have to bring the device from which the battery was removed. Even though antacids can be given to prevent disk batteries from leaking, the dosage required in children is too much. It is important to avoid any medications such as ipecac since it promotes vomiting. Batteries that have safely passed into the stomach can be forced back into the esophagus.


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