Ingesting a Button Battery

It was a regular day at home. I was preparing meal and my daughter (1.5 years) was playing with her pull along ducks. She soon got bored of it and picked up her toy phone lying nearby and started playing sounds on it. With the sounds she was dancing and roaming here and there. Soon my work got finished and I saw that the toy phone was lying on the floor with its battery cover open. Its 3 button batteries were not in sight. I frantically looked around for those batteries and called my husband who was working in another room. We checked her hands and her mouth. She had two batteries in her hand while none in mouth. Could she have swallowed the other battery (it had three in total)? Could it have slipped from her hand and now hiding behind some furniture? We didn't know.

We started searching for it in the whole house. After a painstaking effort of half an hour we could found none. Daughter was behaving normally - no coughing , no pain or discomfort. Meanwhile my husband did some search over internet and found out that these battery cells can be very dangerous if they get stuck in oesophagus and sometimes there are no symptoms also. I hurriedly called my father (who is a doctor) but could not reach him. So we decided to take her to the the nearby hospital (Manipal Hospital).

Hospital Experience:
The doctor in the Paediatric emergency ward asked us to go for an X-ray. We did it and found that it was lying there in her stomach. Before consulting the doctor again with the X-ray, I tried calling my father and got through. I told him everything and he said no need to panic, there is no danger at all and no need to show any doctor if she's not showing any signs of discomfort. He told us that such batteries are so small and smooth that chances of getting them stuck in oesophagus are very very low. He said that it will get eliminated in stools within 2-3 days. And that if you go to doctors, they will unnecessarily scare you and do procedures which will cost you time and money.

But as we were already in the hospital we thought of showing the X-ray anyway to the doctor. She also said nothing to worry and advised to do X-ray again after 48 hours if it doesn't come out by itself. Then she sent us to Gastroenterology ward for their opinion on the case. The doctors there were more than eager to do a endoscopy to take out the battery. They almost took her to the operation ward when we had to intervene and make clear that we DO NOT want to go for any procedure and are here only because the emergency doctor sent us. Even then, they were not ready to let us go. The senior doctor there, called us to his room and tried to shove in our heads that the case is of urgent operation. He presented various lame arguments to create fear in us like "I have seen a similar case where the child has to be in ICU for weeks because his parents didn't go for endoscopy". As we were determined (backed by my father's advise), we didn't budge. So finally the doctor tried to scare us by taking our signatures on the statement saying something like "parents deny endoscopy and they will be responsible if anything happens to baby". We signed readily, got rid of him and came back home.

The battery came out by itself in her stools on the third day. End of episode but there were questions that kept lingering in my mind - Was the job of that doctor only to scare parents and get money out of them? Why did the emergency doctor sent us to Gastroenterology ward when in fact there was no need? Was that a hospital policy to refer such cases from emergency to Gastroenterology ward so that parents can be scared and fooled? Endoscopy would have cost us ~18K and it seems that it's a good money making tool for doctors as well hospital.


  1. Most of the things that babies accidentally swallow pass through stool within 2-4 days and don't do any damage. Coins, buttons, button batteries are some examples.

  2. Things with sharp edges like hair pins, all pins, glass piece are likely to cause damage and might need immediate medical intervention.

  3. Drinking water, after some foreign object is swallowed, helps that object to flow down to stomach instead of getting stuck in the oesophagus.

  4. Think before agreeing to any costly procedure (endoscopy). Talk to your family doctor or take second opinions.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical expert. I am just sharing my experiences with my daughter.

Category: parenting