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 lodge in the esophagus requires immediate removal. 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.


  • 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.


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
  • If ingestion occurs, rash arises if it is nickel battery
  • Difficulty breathing if the battery blocks the airway
  • Lastly, 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 likely, 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

Generally, 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. Furthermore, all disk batteries contain a code that the healthcare professional uses to determine the manufacturer, contents and actual size of the battery.

If the retrieval of the battery is not successful, you have to bring the device. Even though antacids prevent disk batteries from leaking, the dosage in children is too much. It is important to avoid any medications such as ipecac since it promotes vomiting. Batteries that safely passes into the stomach can be forced back into the esophagus.


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