If you have games, watches or electronics under your tree, you likely have those shiny, button-sized batteries in the box, too, and those batteries can be a critical problem if a child swallows one.

Tammy Noble, a registered nurse and spokeswoman for the Iowa Poison Control Center, says the moisture in the throat can trigger the flow of current in the battery, which can lead to serious trouble in the esophagus. “The esophagus is the tube that goes from the back of your throat down to your stomach,” Noble says. “When it’s stuck in the esophagus, it can cause burns, even significant burns, within two hours after they swallow it.”

Curious kids can find those batteries in all sorts of products, from bathroom scales to grandma’s hearing aids. Unfortunately, it likely means a trip to the ER if a battery is swallowed. “This is definitely an emergency situation when kids swallow these batteries,” Noble says. “Even the small ones, we get concerned about just to make sure it’s not stuck in the esophagus. We always refer those into the hospital to get X-rays.”

Many parts of Iowa have snow on the ground and ice melt in the garage — or on the sidewalk and driveway. Noble says those white granules of ice melt might also look appetizing to a child. The various ice melting products on the market often contain either of two primary ingredients.

“Some are like your table salt, with sodium chloride, and other ones have potassium chloride,” Noble says. “Both of those, when you swallow that, it’s a larger quantity than just shaking the salt shaker on your food, so it can cause an upset stomach, especially if you’re swallowing larger quantities of it.”

If your child ate ice melt — or anything else questionable, be on the safe side and call the Sioux City-based Iowa Poison Control Center. The experts are available around-the-clock at 1-800-222-1222.