Light up toys, key fobs, musical greeting cards and small remotes are all popular toys for small children but each contain a potentially life-threatening danger behind their thin plastic—batteries. Each year thousands of children are rushed to the emergency room after swallowing button batteries. These small, candy-sized batteries can get stuck in the esophagus and trigger a chemical reaction that causes severe damage in as little as two hours. Repairing the damage left behind requires several surgeries and may have permanent effects.

You may not be able to remove every button battery from your child’s life but a little preparation could protect them from the temptation.

  1. Keep battery-controlled devices out of reach of toddlers and babies. Button batteries can be found in digital watches, light up jewelry or toys, musical greeting cards, t-light candles, holiday decorations, calculators and more. Be sure to keep an eye on these items and keep them away from any child young enough to be tempted to put the item in their mouth.
  2. Involve the family. If you have grandparents or caregivers that watch your children at any time, make sure they know the danger of button batteries. Many people are unaware and a simple conversation could save a life. If you have older children, be sure and inform them of the danger the items can pose as well so everyone in the home can work together to make sure these items are safely out of reach.
  3. Use duct tape as a backup. If possible, add a small piece of duct tape to items holding batteries to ensure they stay secured. Any loose batteries should be kept locked away in a place only the adults of the home can reach.
  4. If you suspect your child has swallowed a battery, get them to a hospital quickly. You can call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 1-800-498-8666 for additional information. Do not try to make your child throw up or eat or drink anything until you’ve sought medical help.

In some cases a child may not show any immediate signs of distress after swallowing a battery. They may begin coughing, drooling or show symptoms of a cold or flu. If there’s ever any doubt, seek help right away.