Button batteries, also called button cell batteries or coin batteries, are extremely dangerous to children if swallowed, and can be found in toys, remote controls, car keys, musical greetings cards, and small electronic devices such as calculators and weighing scales.
What are the dangers?
Although a child may not choke, if undetected the batteries can do serious damage to the gastrointestinal system. When combined with saliva, the electrical current from the battery produces caustic soda that burns through the throat or stomach and can cause further damage to other internal organs.
How many cases have there been?
According to the National Capitol Poison Centre in the USA, there are around 3,500 incidents reported every year where swallowed batteries require urgent treatment. The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit in Australia also estimates that four children a week are admitted to hospital after swallowing batteries.
What precautions can I take to protect my child?
- Make sure that toys and other products using button batteries, such as small electronic devices, have lockable battery compartments. This should mean that they are safe for children to use as the batteries are locked away
- Be extra vigilant with items including musical greeting cards, flameless candles and remote controls as they do not have lockable compartments. RoSPA advises that children should not be allowed to have access to these products if the battery compartment is not secure
- It is a good idea to ensure that spare batteries are locked away, and used batteries are disposed of correctly - once they are dead, store them securely out of reach, and then recycle them as soon as possible.
What should I do if my child swallows a button battery?
If your child swallows a button battery, seek medical advice immediately. Remember that the saliva in their body will react with the battery and so time is very much of the essence in these cases.