Dry cell batteries

Alternative names 
Batteries - dry cell

Poisoning from a dry cell battery.

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Acidic dry cell batteries       o Manganese dioxide       o Ammonium chloride  
  • Alkaline dry cell batteries       o Sodium hydroxide       o Potassium hydroxide

Where Found

Dry cell batteries, which are commonly found in most households
Note: This list may not be all inclusive.


Note that symptoms will vary depending on what type of battery is ingested (acidic or alkaline).

From chronically ingesting large amounts of acidic dry cell batteries:

  • Decreased mental ability  
  • Irritation or burns in the mouth  
  • Muscle cramps  
  • Slurred speech  
  • Swelling of the lower legs, ankles, or feet  
  • Weakness  
  • Nervous system  
  • Spastic walk  
  • Spasticity  
  • Tremor

From inhaling large amounts of the acidic battery contents dust or smoke from burning batteries:

  • Body as a whole       o Decreased mental ability       o Difficulty sleeping       o Muscle cramps       o Slurred speech       o Weakness in the legs  
  • Respiratory       o Bronchitis       o Headache       o Pneumonia  
  • Itching skin  
  • Nervous system       o Numbness of the fingers or toes       o Spastic walk

From ingesting alkaline battery contents:

  • Body as a whole       o Severe pain in the mouth       o Collapse  
  • Inability to breathe due to the throat swelling shut  
  • Severe pain in the throat  
  • Gastrointestinal       o Severe abdominal pain       o Diarrhea       o Vomiting       o Drooling  
  • Rapid drop in blood pressure

Home Treatment

Do not induce vomiting. Call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) or local emergency number (such as 911).

If the battery was swallowed, give water or milk.

If inhaled, take the patient outdoors to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency
Determine the following information:

  • The patient’s age, weight, and condition  
  • The name of the product (ingredients and strengths if known)  
  • The time it was swallowed  
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The Poison Control or local emergency telephone representative will instruct you if it is necessary to take the patient to the hospital. The national Poison Control hotline can be reached at 1-800-222-1222.
Take the container with you to the emergency room.

What to expect at the emergency room
Some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

  • Treatment of symptoms  
  • Monitoring of vital signs  
  • Supportive care

Expectations (prognosis)

Full recovery is often possible if treated soon enough. Serious problems are usually seen only following industrial accidents. Most household exposures (such as licking some liquid from a leaking battery) are minor.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Simon D. Mitin, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.