button batteries

The Dangers of Button Batteries

Written by Emma Adams
The Dangers of Button Batteries

When I talk about poisons and swallowing something harmful on my baby and child first aid courses, I am always shocked that only half of the room is aware of the dangers that button batteries pose.

Due to our love of small electronics, button batteries are in absolutely everything: toys, calculators, musical greetings cards, nightlights, and watches. It’s important we are aware of what items they are in so we can keep these products well out of reach from our little ones.

Button batteries, if accidently swallowed can pass through the body without causing any harm at all. But if they get stuck along the way they can cause serious internal burns and even death in a matter of a few hours. The Lithium Coin batteries are the more dangerous ones, they are larger and therefore more prone to getting stuck. They are also more powerful and have a higher charge than the smaller varieties of button batteries. When the battery becomes lodged in the body and encounter moisture, this causes them to react and they then cause the body to form something called caustic soda. This is what you poor down drains to dissolve all the slime and sludge. That’s what they do in the body, but they dissolve human tissue instead ☹

The problem with these types of batteries is they are so easy for little ones to pick up and pop in their mouth, swallow, and you might not even be aware they have eaten it. At six months old our little ones are starting to explore and it’s a natural part of their development. Up to about 3 years old they explore things with their mouths and are therefore at greater risk of ingesting one of these small batteries.

If a child sticks a small battery in their nose or ear this will also come into contact with moisture and will begin to burn. If this happens you need to get them to hospital as quickly as possible for it to be removed carefully.

The other horrible thing about these batteries if swallowed, is they don’t really show many distinguishable symptoms until the casualty starts vomiting blood and by this point its too late.

It’s coming up to Christmas and you may think the electronic tea lights are safer to have around little ones but think again. These contain button batteries which are often easy to get to.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Swallowed a Button Battery?

You need to get them to Accident and Emergency or call 999 for an ambulance, whichever is quickest. Time is of the essence. They will need to be x-rayed and may need to be operated on.

DO NOT give them anything to eat or drink.

DO NOT make them vomit.

Take the battery packaging or the item that the battery came from with you so that the type of battery can be identified, and they can be treated efficiently and effectively.

Finally DO NOT panic as you remaining calm will really help them stay calm and happy. I know this can sometimes be easier said than done but this is such an important element of first aid and makes a massive difference to the casualty.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

  • Keep any new and used batteries out of reach
  • Don’t let children play with anything where the batteries are accessible
  • If the batteries are screwed in I would still supervise a young child when playing with toys containing button batteries
  • Only buy toys that have the correct safety checks and standards from reputable shops. Toys bought from market stalls, pop up shops, online and discount stores may not abide by the appropriate safety standards
  • Only buy toys appropriate to the child’s age
  • Spread the word. Everyone should be aware of the dangers of button batteries. Awareness saves lives!

Emma set up Little Lambs First Aid after having her first child and being petrified of something happening to her. Her Little Lambs First Aid courses help to make your home the safest place it can be for your children. It is our job as parents to protect our children.

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