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Swallowed Button Disc Battery, Magnet, or Object With Lead

Topic Overview

Button disc batteries

Button disc batteries are found in watches, cameras, calculators, hearing aids, and computer games. They are easily swallowed by children. These batteries, which contain corrosive fluids, can come apart when swallowed and quickly damage tissue. Some batteries contain potentially life-threatening amounts of mercury.

A disc battery can cause burning, corrosion, or complete destruction of tissue in the upper digestive tract when swallowed. Damage can occur rapidly and is likely to be worse if the battery lodges in the esophagus instead of moving into the stomach. Battery fluid can eat through the lining of the stomach, causing pain and tenderness in the belly, nausea, and fever.

If you think someone has swallowed a disc battery:

  • Do not cause (induce) vomiting.
  • Call your doctor immediately to arrange for care.
    • If your doctor is not immediately available, go to a hospital emergency room.
    • Medical treatment is usually needed within 1 hour of swallowing a battery.

Magnets

Magnets are often found in toys and magnetic play sets. Magnets can be easily swallowed. They can stick to the bowel and cause a blockage or a hole to form. If more than one magnet is swallowed, they could stack together or magnetically join across loops of the intestines and cause serious problems.

Swallowing a magnet may cause symptoms similar to other abdominal problems, such as feeling sick to the stomach (nausea), vomiting, belly pain, or diarrhea.

If you think someone has swallowed a magnet:

  • Do not cause (induce) vomiting.
  • Call your doctor to discuss the problem. Medical treatment may be needed.

Objects with lead

Objects that contain a lot of lead (such as bullets, buckshot, fishing weights and sinkers, and some toys) also can cause problems if swallowed.

Lead poisoning may cause behavior changes, lack of energy, or headaches.

If you think someone has swallowed an object with a lot of lead:

  • Do not cause (induce) vomiting.
  • Call your doctor to discuss the problem. Medical treatment may be needed.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Current as of June 4, 2014

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