The Hidden Hazards of Lithium Coin and Button Batteries

east portland pediatricians

As electronic household items get smaller and “smarter,” they need energy. Small lithium coin and button batteries are everywhere, from remote controls to musical greeting cards. While these tiny power sources are incredibly useful, they pose a significant risk to young children.  The danger lies not only in their size, which makes them easily ingestible, but also in their chemical composition. When swallowed, these batteries can cause severe internal burns and life-threatening injuries within a matter of hours. As your Pediatrics Portland OR, we want you to understand these risks so you can proactively prevent accidents.


Recognize the Risks

Choking and Internal Damage: The most immediate threat from lithium coin and button batteries is choking. For a curious toddler, these shiny, small objects can be enticing. If ingested, they can become lodged in the esophagus, leading to choking. 

If you’re able to take a first aid course, it’s well worth the time. If you’re not able to take a course right now, look up how to treat choking in someone your child’s age. Even if the battery is cleared, get immediate medical attention.


Chemical Exposure: These batteries contain hazardous substances like lithium, which is highly reactive. If a battery is broken or chewed, it can leak these dangerous chemicals, causing chemical burns and poisoning. If not broken or chewed, there’s still the risk of chemical damage. Get immediate medical attention in either case.


Prevention is Key

Always store extra batteries out of the reach of children. 

Be mindful of household items that contain button batteries: Are the battery compartments screwed shut? Are the batteries easily accessible? Secure battery compartments with tape if needed, and regularly check devices for damage or loose batteries. 


Don’t change button batteries in front of small children. 

Teach older children about the dangers of these batteries and instruct them to keep their battery-operated toys away from younger siblings.

Remember: If it has an electronic function, and it’s not plugged in, there’s a battery.

You might find a button battery in any of these, and more:

  • thermometers
  • small electronic games and toys
  • hearing aids
  • calculators
  • scales
  • flameless candles
  • key fobs
  • watches 
  • electronic jewelry
  • singing or flashing greeting cards
  • gaming headsets
  • slim remote controls
  • key finders
  • novelty items like singing Santas and flashing wands


What if an Accident Happens? See A Pediatric in Portland OR

If you suspect your child has swallowed a battery, seek emergency medical help immediately. 

First, stay calm. It’ll also help your child stay calm. Do not induce vomiting or give them anything to eat or drink.

Try to determine when the battery was swallowed and keep any packaging or similar batteries at hand for reference, but not at the expense of getting attention quickly. Make your way to the nearest emergency room. 


Creating a Safer Environment

Battery-Free Alternatives

Making conscious choices while shopping can significantly reduce risks. When purchasing toys, electronics or household items, check the packaging to identify if they contain lithium coin or button batteries. Opt for battery-free alternatives when possible, especially for items that are within easy reach of younger children. 

Products with built-in rechargeable batteries are also a safer option, as they don’t require frequent battery changes and are typically designed with secured battery compartments. 

Additionally, consider the age recommendations on toy packaging. Items designed for older children may have battery compartments that are easier to access.


Non-Electronic Play

Traditional toys like puzzles, blocks and books not only eliminate the risk of battery exposure but also support cognitive and motor skill development. This approach not only ensures safety but also promotes a healthy balance between technology use and imaginative play. We’re all about balance!


Regular Checks and Maintenance

Make it a routine to inspect household items. Check the integrity of battery compartments, ensuring they are secure and intact. Any damaged items should be repaired or disposed of safely to prevent children from accessing the batteries. This includes not just toys, but also everyday items like remote controls, digital thermometers and kitchen scales.


Safe Disposal of Batteries

Educate yourself on the proper disposal of lithium batteries. Used or dead batteries should be disposed of at designated recycling points, not in regular household trash, to prevent environmental harm and reduce the risk of children finding them. Wrapping used batteries in two layers of household tape before recycling reduces the chance of fire and can prevent harm from ingestion.


Educate Caregivers and Family Members

Share battery safety practices with all family members, babysitters and other caregivers. Ensure they are aware of the potential dangers and know how to store and handle batteries safely. This collective approach ensures your child is protected even when you are not around.


Reach out to Your Portland Pediatricians

As parents, our pediatrics Portland OR primary goal goal is to create a safe and nurturing environment for our children. While the dangers of lithium coin and button batteries are real, being informed and vigilant can significantly reduce the risks. 


Accidents can happen, and in such instances, swift action is crucial. 

For immediate medical assistance in an emergency like a swallowed battery, head to your emergency room or call 9-1-1.

For questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. The team at East Portland Pediatric Clinic is always here to support and guide you with concerns about your family’s health.