back to article Button batteries burn kids from inside

The next time you replace a button battery, do take care to dispose of it thoughtfully lest your kids swallow it and end up subjecting their innards to a damaging electrical current. So warns the journal Pediatrics, through a new study titled Battery-Related Emergency Department Visits in the United States, 1990–2009. The …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    we used

    to lick 9 volt batteries for fun.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: we used

      fun? Its a quick way to test the battery work.

      Still is.

    2. Graham Wilson

      Re: we used to lick 9-volt batteries for fun - Well, I've a calibrated 9 volt tongue!

      I've been doing it for years. Because the terminals have always been the same size and as their spacing has never changed, it's quite easy to calibrate one's tongue for 9 volts to within about half a volt.

      I'm not the only either, for many electronic nerds, engineers etc. this has become an 'essential' skill. Why you may ask--well, almost all good multimeters, Fluke etc, use one of these 9 volt batteries to power them. Naturally, when you want to test the multimeter battery--Catch 22--with the battery in your hand you've no working multimeter!

      Yeah, right--of course all you thoroughly organised people would never ever experience this problem as you'd have both spare batteries and multimeters to hand, but for the rest of us disorganised hoi polloi, acquiring a calibrated 9-volt tongue is a very useful attribute.

      As brand new 9 volt batteries never go more than a fraction of a volt over 9V, it's always easy to calibrate the 'calibrated' tongue with a new battery. With a bit of practice, one can become quite expert. What's more difficult is to determine the exact voltage of a battery when it falls significantly below 8 volts (one knows it's low but as the 'flat' voltage can be anywhere, one's never as practiced).



      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: GRADE 10+ CHILLI.

        I've eaten chilli sauce that was 2.8x stronger than riot-squad pepper spray.

        Yes, it almost floored me for 45 minutes.

        :) :) Bloody great!

        Sorry, were you trying to en- or discourage us?

  2. TeeCee Gold badge

    Isn't this basic common sense?

    "...65, 788......incidents..."

    Oh, apparently not.

    1. Antidisestablishmentarianist

      Re: Isn't this basic common sense?

      Good luck finding common sense in a 3.9 year old....

      My 2 year old swallowed a nice 50c piece a few years ago. Got a nice X-ray to show at his 21st birthday too. All came out the end, well, in the end.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Isn't this basic common sense?

        thumbs up for wonderful comma placement for added humour

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Isn't this basic common sense?

        Guess I am lucky my 2 year old wont try to swallow anything that isn't food...

        Accidents happen, but I know my kids won't try to eat anything thats not food on purpose...

        1. Claus P. Nielsen

          No you don't

          "Accidents happen, but I know my kids won't try to eat anything thats not food on purpose..."

          I think your thinking has just proven that this is NOT common sense.

          I honestly hope that you never have to find out the hard way that you are wrong.

          Kids change - that is actually one of their defining characteristics.

          Your present experience seems to be that your kid won't eat anything that is not food, but that may change over time as well.

          My 4-year old recently put a bead up her nose despite the fact that she perfectly understood why that is not a good idea - it just happened.

          She is also frequently complaining about the toy phone she has that won't play sounds because I refuse to put the buttom batteries it came with back in.

          These batteries can be deadly if swallowed and are easily lost, so take care.

        2. Graham Wilson

          Re: Isn't this basic common sense? - - OH DEAR!!

          "Accidents happen, but I know my kids won't try to eat anything thats not food on purpose..."

          Oh dear, oh dear oh dear! If you do have perfect kids then you're a bloody rarity!

          Let's look at what kids can get up to at this age: yours truly escaped out into the street and was found sitting in the gutter happily eating a large lump of dog shit! Mother, absolutely horrified by disgusting actions of No. 1 son, rushed me off to some medical facility. (BTW, there weren't any ill effects, and unlike 'cleanness' kids of today I've a solid immune system sans asthma.)

          Next, I ate a complete dolly of blue--that's stuff you don't see much today but it's for whitening clothes during a wash. The effect was dramatic--especially when it came out the other end (even now I remember it well).

          Then there was the time when I ate the poisonous Lilly in the garden next door--err wow. And the time when I put the a metal fork in the toaster with me still hanging off it; a similar thing happened when I poked a fork into a 240V power point. ...And then there was the time when I snuck behind an old valve radio and got belted by the DC high tension and landed half way across the room.

          And that was just the beginning.

          Sorry, most us aren't born angles.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Isn't this basic common sense?

        "Doc, how's my child ?"

        "We were watching him all night but I am afraid there's been no change."

    2. Hieronymus Howerd

      Re: Isn't this basic common sense?

      They're kids, you moron.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The perils of posting too quickly.

        The "Isn't this basic common sense?" question refers to the advice to adults to secure or dispose of the batteries properly so that their kids don't swallow them, and not to some hypothetical advice to kids not to swallow small objects, which if you RTFA you will see is not what is being suggested.

        And yes, keeping small objects of easily-swallowable size tidied away where small kids can't get their hands on them is common sense. Or at any rate it should be.

  3. LaeMing

    How does one secure battery compartments?

    I have seen the occasional device with a screw hold on the battery cover, but it isn't the norm around here.

    Advice on securing memory card slots appreciated also!

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: How does one secure battery compartments?

      Duct tape seems to work well on the remote on my DVD-player...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How does one secure battery compartments?

      In the EU, it's a legal requirement that anything which a child may come into contact with has a screw secured battery compartment. It's pretty common in button-cell holding devices which aren't child-targetted too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How does one secure battery compartments?

        Also don't leave stuff you don't want buggered up where the little parasites can get to them. Thet're only yay high iit isn't rocket science

        1. LaeMing

          Re: How does one secure battery compartments?

          Thanks for the responses.

          BTW. The little buggers I have to keep out of the battery compartments are university undergrads. My 6yo niece has more sense than some of them!

  4. Roger Stenning

    Adopting Sean Connery voice...


    OK, I'll get me coat ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Adopting Sean Connery voice...

      "Ever since I slept with your mother, Trebek, it burns when I pee."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Adopting Sean Connery voice...

        "I'll take "Things You Shouldn't Put in Your Mouth" for 200..."

        Also: "What's the difference between you and a mallard with a cold. One's a sick duck... I can't remember how it ends, but your mother's a whore."

        I loved that show!

  5. jake Silver badge


    There's a baby/toddler in the house ... stow all your dangerous gear out of reach! To do otherwise is the very definition of "child endangerment".

    At Stanford Hospital, we used to recommend that all new parents traverse all the areas in reach on hands & knees and remove any potential hazards ... and repeat the scan on all fours every single day until your reflexes were set to stow your gear properly in the first place.

    We do the same exact thing for households with new puppies, for exactly the same reason. As I tell folks before they bring the pup home "If the pup gnaws on your new $199 shoes, don't yell at the pup. Rather, yell at yourself ... after removing the inappropriate chew-toy & substituting it with something more appropriate. It ain't the dawg's fault. It's your fault.

    Only stands to reason, innit.

    1. Allan George Dyer

      Re: Duh!

      Completely agree.

      But, I have to ask... is the merging of Health and Veterinary Services the result of budget cuts?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Duh!

        "is the merging of Health and Veterinary Services the result of budget cuts?"

        Nope. Life experience. I'm a civilian, I work for a living ;-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I don't even have kids ...

      ... but I know without being told to pick up everything small and/or sharp and stow it well out of reach when one of my mates is coming round with one of their kids in tow. It did just seem an obvious thing to do.

  6. Haku

    I've never swallowed a button cell battery but I did explode one!

    Back when I was a kid in the early 80s I had some button cell batteries for watches/early electroncs (LEDs primarily) and being a kid in the 80s pocket money was almost non-existant, couple that with the high price of button cell batteries I found I could charge them up a little so they'd work for a few minutes.

    Until I charged one up for too long with too high a voltage and it went BANG, exploded out of my hands and into my face, no injuries but did give me one helluva shock and I've never tried charging a non-rechargable battery again since that day... :)

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: I've never swallowed a button cell battery but I did explode one!

      If you are a kid: close your eyes, now!

      Back in the days of 220 V mains, i.e. when I was a kid, the almost best toy, besides Lego, was the very thing out of the power socket. Cooking sausages, improvising flash lights with graphite, burning down TVs while playing some console games and later on extinguishing it with water while still on power... Yes, it gave me one or the other shock, too. And it's fair to say that my otherwise healthy life was saved more than once by the RCCBs, or rather I relied on them quite heavily. But I learned a lot (?) and it was fun! Even if it meant that I was shivering for half an hour afterwards.

      And today's kids can't deal with 3 V cell batteries? Pha!

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: I've never swallowed a button cell battery but I did explode one!

        RCCBs? we didnt have those. If you got busted by blowing the ring main fuse then an original solid metal scalextric power supply came a close second. I think they were 12v 5a. Plus it beat having a numb arm for a few hours.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Charging a non-rechargeable battery.

      Perfectly safe if you use a proper trickle-charger (of the kind that's tuned to work with ordinary batteries rather than a bog-standard charger designed for rechargeables).

  7. Neoc

    Looks like the kids get some sort of charge out of it.

    1. LaeMing

      Yeah, but police come down hard on the practice.

      Eat batteries, and they will charge you.

      While the kids they catch eating fireworks get let off.

  8. Colin Brett

    That explains a lot ...

    "Eight percent of battery-related incidents lead to surgery to remove the shiny little power source, which kids apparently swallow because they resemble sweets and look appealingly shiny."

    So that's what happened to my iPod Nano!


  9. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    The positive side of it

    Feed them new batteries and you've got kids producing oxyhydrogen!

    Explosion icon for obvious reason

  10. Snark
    Thumb Up

    Worth knowing about

    This is old news but it's well worth repeating. Some of those batteries are really tiny and very small children put everything in their mouths and new parents tend to be very harried and sleep deprived so it's easy to just put something down for a moment when you suddenly hear a crashing noise when they've pulled something over and then forget about it.

    I've heard some of the outcomes before and on the list of "things I have to do to keep my house safe" this may well not come on peoples radars and it's a really serious and horrible thing to happen, so it's well worth highlighting.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electric burns?

    Are you sure? Seems more likely that the case corrodes and leaks acid.

    1. The BigYin

      Re: Electric burns?

      I don't think it leaks as such, but causes an acid to be formed. This was on "Monsters Inside Me" a few episodes ago. Afraid I can't recall the acid.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Electric burns?

        Yeah, sorry, too lazy to write it properly.

        Something about gas and rupturing and zinc plus something which is corrosive. Mercury?

        1. The Flying Dutchman

          Re: Electric burns?

          Mercury has been outlawed in consumer batteries for quite some time now (more then 10 years IIRC), at least in the EU.

  12. Velv

    Kids should be kept in playpens unless you've got them on reins.

    Anyone who disagrees is a negligent parent.


  13. TRT Silver badge

    Hearing aids

    Doesn't help that sweet manufacturers devise ever more ingenious boiled sugar dispensers, some of which look like those rosette hearing aid battery dispensers.

  14. Anonymous John

    No rectal insertions?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "anonymous" john

      Thought you weren't allowed to use a computer where you are, Venables.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "disposing of old batteries promptly"

    I have a nice scheme selling them to local street urchins, with the batteries cunningly disguised as tasty, shiny sweets.

    Solves two problems - no more dead batteries cluttering up my abode, and no more street urchins!


  16. Dr. Mouse

    "The incidents are no laughing matter"

    I have to disagree, I nearly wet myself reading this article.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First magnets, now batteries.

    Is there nothing left of my old childhood diet these days?

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Alan 19

    Electrolysis of salty water produces...

    caustic soda. A child or baby swallowing one's a medical emergency.

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Acid can also injure."

      You are half correct. Silver oxide batteries are alkaline batteries so, instead of a strong acid, they have a strong base (lye or caustic potash). It will still burn a hole in your throat (or so the MSDS tells me). That said, it is my understanding that main risk is actually the electrical burn.

  21. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    Company adds Sad Onions to Button Batteries

    If you follow Ashens on Youtube you know what i mean!

    1. LinkOfHyrule

      Re: Company adds Sad Onions to Button Batteries

      "An excellent forum posting"

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Natural selection

    Darwin uses these old batteries for natural selection...

  23. LosD
    Thumb Down

    There was a horrible case in Denmark a few years back, where parents were sure that their 14 months old boy had swallowed a button battery, and contacted doctors and ER 11 times. 3 separate doctors refused that it was possible for him to swallow such a large batter (2 cm diameter, 3 mm thick). He gets different symptoms over the next 14 days, and the doctors keeps giving him all kinds of medicines for various theories instead of listening to the parents.

    14 days after, the kid starts bleeding heavily from nose and mouth, and dies soon after. The battery had stuck in his throat and etched through his Esophagus and artery.

    (Sorry, it's in Danish)

    No laughing matter indeed!

    1. John H Woods Silver badge


      ... were they waiting for someone to invent X-rays?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About those parenting skills...

    Read a book before you decide to procreate.

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