Button Batteries (Disc Batteries)

What are they?
First Aid

What are button batteries?

Lithium batteries of various sizes

Button batteries, or disc batteries, are small, flat, coin-like batteries. They are used in watches, hearing aids, musical greeting cards, calculators and other small electronic items.

Button batteries usually contain manganese, zinc, silver or lithium. While many used to contain large amounts of mercury, that is no longer the case. However, they may contain smaller amounts of mercury to prevent corrosion and leaking.

Because button batteries are small, young children and pets sometimes swallow them. Swallowing a button battery can be very harmful.

What happens if someone swallows a button battery?

When someone swallows a button battery it usually passes through the body and comes out in the stool. 

But sometimes the battery gets stuck in the throat or stomach. This can cause very bad burns inside the body. These burns can happen as soon as two hours after the person swallows the battery.

Someone who swallows a button battery may:

  • Have pain in their throat, chest or stomach
  • Have a fever
  • Throw up or drool
  • Not feel like eating, due to poor appetite or trouble swallowing
  • Have bloody stools
  • Have coughing or wheezing
  • Be drowsy or cranky

Sometimes it can take hours or even days for symptoms to appear.

What should you do if someone has swallowed a button battery?

If you think someone has swallowed a button battery:

  • Contact the poison center right away—call 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.
    • Do not make the person throw up.  
    • Do not have the person eat or drink anything unless the poison center tells you to.

How can you prevent button battery poisonings?

  • Keep unused button batteries in their original packaging.
  • Keep button batteries and small electronics out of the reach of children and pets.  
  • Make sure the battery covers are tightly closed on all your electronics. If a cover is loose, tighten it with duct tape or screws.
  • Get rid of dead batteries safely:  
    • Do not put button batteries in your regular trash.  
    • Keep dead button batteries in a sealed, child-resistant container, out of the reach of children.  
    • Contact your town office or solid waste district to find out how to get rid of button batteries.  

Last Updated: Monday May 2nd 2016