Check twice to make sure your child doesn’t have access to button batteries. It could save her life.

During the holidays, light-up toys and greeting cards that play music or sound can bring a smile to your child’s face. The button batteries you find in these types of gifts, however, send U.S. children to the emergency room (ER) every few hours.

“The most dangerous situation is when a child swallows a battery and it doesn’t make it to the stomach,” says Jesse Vrecenak, MD, Washington University pediatric surgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Button batteries react with the tissue in the esophagus and within hours can create holes in internal structures.”

Because of this, you should notify your pediatrician and head straight to the ER if you believe your child may have swallowed a button battery. At arrival, tell hospital staff what happened so your child receives fast treatment. Your child may need nothing more than a noninvasive procedure, but in serious cases, surgery may be necessary. The sooner the battery is removed, the less likely it is to cause severe damage.

“I suggest avoiding toys or cards that contain these types of batteries, or at least make sure the battery is behind a plastic cover with a screw,” Dr. Vrecenak says. “Store loose batteries in a drawer or container where your little ones can’t reach them.”

Until your child is old enough, keep her away from small toys as well, including buildable ball magnets. If she swallows multiple magnets, their attraction to each other can create holes in the bowel or between different sections of her digestive tract, which requires major abdominal surgery to repair.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital offers pediatric emergency care! Visit to find one close to you.