They may look inoffensive, but button batteries are potentially lethal to young children. Found in many gadgets and gizmos around every home home, the temptation for little ones to put them in their mouths and accidentally swallow them could be fatal. If a button battery, particularly a lithium coin battery, gets stuck in a child’s throat or gullet, the battery’s energy makes the body create caustic soda (the chemical used to unblock drains) which can then burn a hole through the throat and lead to serious internal bleeding and death.
Lithium coin batteries are the most dangerous as the higher voltage means more energy is released, creating more caustic soda. The reaction can happen in as little as two hours.
Hospitals such as Great Ormond Street are seeing a huge rise in battery related injuries and are recommending that parents keep a vigilant eye, treating the batteries as if they were poison – out of reach of small children.
Where can you find button batteries?
Button batteries are used in a wide range of toys, gadgets and other everyday objects you’ll find around the house. Lots of these objects have buttons and surfaces that young children love to explore and play with. Many are brightly coloured or otherwise appealing to children. Your children’s toys should have a secure area for batteries, that is closed with a screw, but other items around the home could be hazardous:
- small remote controls
- car key fobs
- hearing aids
- digital scales
- musical cards
- novelty toys
- flameless candles and nightlights.
How can I keep children safe?
- Make sure your child’s toys have the battery compartment secured with a screw.
- Keep products with batteries well out of reach if the battery compartment isn’t secured with a screw.
- Keep all spare batteries out of children’s reach and sight, ideally in a high-up, lockable cupboard.
- Avoid toys from markets or temporary shops as they may not conform to safety regulations.
- Teach older children that button batteries are dangerous and not to play with them or give them to younger brothers and sisters.
- Remember that even used batteries can be dangerous, so recycle them safely.
And if the worst happens?
- If your child does swallow a button battery, you’ll need to act fast as you may not realise straight away:
- Do not give your child anything to eat or drink
- Do not try to make your child sick
- Do not wait for symptoms to develop
- Go straight to A and E
For more advice and information, visit the Child Accident Prevention Trust website.