Symptoms and Signs of Battery Ingestion (Swallowed Battery)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 8/25/2021

Doctor's Notes on Battery Ingestion (Swallowed Battery)

Battery ingestion signs and symptoms unfortunately may not become obvious until the battery begins to harm tissue. However, if the battery initially blocks the airway, difficulty breathing may be the first symptom of battery ingestion. Signs and symptoms of battery ingestion may include

The causes of many battery ingestion situations are due to children finding disc-type or small cylindrical batteries and mistakenly think they are something to eat. Battery ingestion is considered a medical emergency in almost all instances.

What Is the Treatment for Battery Ingestion?

This treatment is emergency care:

  • Call 911 and poison control (1-800-222-1222), and transport the patient to an appropriate ER (child or adult). If possible, determine the type of battery swallowed.
  • Do not cause vomiting -- no food or drinking.
  • X-ray of esophagus and stomach
  • If the battery is in the esophagus, it should be removed immediately by endoscopy.
  • If battery is in the stomach, it should be passed in the stool and the patient sent home. However, if later the patient develops fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, and/or bloody stools, they should be sent back to the ER immediately. Note that some doctors suggest that button batteries are concerning and may cause some stomach erosion. Your doctors can suggest the most appropriate treatments for this problem.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.