Play it safe

Keep button batteries out of harm's way

Dec 9 2016

Battery safety

With Christmas to look forward to, lots of people will be buying gifts from a wish list of toys or gadgets for family and friends; many of which will be products that require button batteries to make them work.

However, many of us may not be so readily aware of the dangers posed by button batteries, which can be found in many everyday objects too, such as car key fobs, remote controls, musical greeting cards and hearing aids.

This year, three cases of children being critically injured after swallowing a button battery have hit the news headlines.

Aside from the possibility of choking, if a button battery gets stuck in the throat or gullet, energy from the battery, when combined with saliva, creates caustic soda (the highly dangerous chemical used to unblock drains) inside the body. The caustic soda produces burns throughout the throat or stomach, and can cause further damage to other internal organs.

In the UK, safety regulations require toys powered by button batteries to be made so that the battery is enclosed in a secure compartment of the toy that can only be opened by undoing a screw. Be warned, toys and other items sold at markets or from temporary shops may not follow safety regulations, so check before you buy.

There are some simple precautions that can be taken to protect children and young people from injuring themselves needlessly. Advice from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) states:

  • Make sure toys and other items using button cell batteries have lockable battery compartments
  • Keep items that do not have lockable compartments out of the reach or accessibility of children
  • Do not let children play with musical greetings cards, flameless candles or remote controls
  • Keep spare batteries locked away
  • Ensure button batteries are disposed of safely (Note: in Hampshire some local recycling waste collections or local recycling centre facilities will collect used batteries of all types)

Being vigilant and taking the few simple steps described will help you to keep your child safe from button cell battery injury. 

But, what if the unthinkable happens and you find yourself in the position of suspecting your child has swallowed a button cell battery, or if they get one stuck in their nose or ear?  

Dr Simon Jones, a Hampshire Paediatrician and member of the Hampshire Safeguarding Children Board, advises: “The sooner the battery can be removed, the less chance there is of permanent damage. Waste no time at all; take them straight to hospital or call an ambulance using the emergency 999 number.  Do not be tempted to try to get your child to eat or drink anything and certainly do not try to make them sick. On no account should you ‘wait and see’ – you will not have the luxury of time on your side.”