Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Urges Parents to be on High Alert When Purchasing Toys with Button Batteries

December 11, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - December 11, 2012 - As the holidays arrive, many children are anxious to receive the toys they have been asking for all year. However, injury prevention experts at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC encourage all parents to shop cautiously this holiday season and be aware of toys and other gadgets that could pose a serious health threat to children. 

Especially dangerous are the small, disc-shaped button batteries in toys, which may be tempting to young children. They also are commonly found in many household electronics, including watches, cameras, games and even singing or flashing greeting cards.

These flat, shiny batteries can pose serious health risks for children, particularly toddlers who explore by putting things in their mouths. If swallowed, the battery may stick in the throat or stomach, causing life-threatening burns and tissue damage as the chemicals leak out. Severe burns can occur in as little as two hours after swallowing. This injury is similar to a burn caused by swallowing a chemical drain cleaner.

According to Safe Kids, more than 3,400 battery-swallowing cases were reported in the United States in 2010; 19 children sustained life-threatening or debilitating injuries and others died as a result of swallowing button batteries.

“These batteries can now be found almost anywhere in the home and may look like a piece of candy to many children, but they can cause harmful damage if swallowed,” said Barbara Gaines, M.D., director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program at Children’s Hospital. “The best prevention method parents can use is to check their child’s toys beforehand to ensure they are safe and to be aware if they contain any small batteries. Parents should also keep batteries locked safely inside the toys in which they are used or store them out of reach of children.”

In addition, dead batteries, even though they aren’t powering the products, can pose a danger and cause the same type of harmful damage to children. They also need to be kept out of the reach of children and disposed of properly. 

If you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery, seek immediate medical attention even before symptoms appear. Symptoms may include coughing, drooling, trouble swallowing and fever.

To keep the holidays safe for your entire family, Children’s Hospital offers some additional tips for parents and children:

  • Turn off holiday lights when leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
  • If you have a Christmas tree, remind an adult to give the tree water.
  • Avoid decorating with small objects that could be swallowed by a child.

For more information and safety tips for the holiday season, please visit

Andrea Kunicky, 412-692-6254,
Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919,