National Poisons Information Service

A service commissioned by Public Health England




Members of the public

seeking specific

information on poisons

should contact:


In England and Wales:

NHS 111 - dial 111


In Scotland:

NHS 24 - dial 111


In N Ireland:

Contact your local GP or

pharmacist during

normal hours; click here

(www.gpoutofhours for GP

services Out-of-Hours.


In Republic of Ireland:

01 809 2166



professionals seeking

poisons information

should consult:

Button batteries

Button batteries are circular power supply units, typically 10 to 30 mm in diameter, found in portable items such as watches and hearing aids. They often contain inorganic lithium compounds which can be strongly alkaline liquids. Features following ingestion are primarily due to local effects around the battery manifested as irritating and potentially corrosive and electrolytic effects on the gastrointestinal mucosa. Oesophageal obstruction or erosion is known to be a particular hazard due to the locally corrosive properties combining with pressure effects.


This year the NPIS received 54 telephone enquiries concerning button batteries. Exposures often involved children aged less than five years (20 cases), and those aged over 70 years (18 cases). Only 12 enquiries concerned patients outside these age ranges, while in four cases the age was unknown. Of the 54 people exposed, 43 had no symptoms at the time of the enquiry, 10 had minor and one patient had moderate features. Typical features included abdominal pain, melaena (bleeding from the bowel), vomiting, diarrhoea and oesophagitis.


The pattern of poisoning seen this year is similar to that in recent years. Over the last five years the NPIS has received 273 telephone enquiries concerning button batteries with annual totals ranging from 48 to 66 calls. The majority of enquiries were received from healthcare professionals working in hospitals (53%) with 88% of all enquiries recorded as accidental ingestions.


Given the potentially serious consequences of exposure, button batteries should be stored securely and kept away from young children.


Information from the NPIS Annual Report 2016/17.


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