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Button battery safety for kids

 
Small silver round button batteries and lithium coin batteries look quite harmless, but they can be extremely dangerous if children swallow them, and can cause significant and potentially fatal injuries – in less than 2 hours! Find out how to keep your kids safe from the dangers of button batteries.
Small silver round button batteries and lithium coin batteries look quite harmless, but they can be extremely dangerous if children swallow them, and can cause significant and potentially fatal injuries – in less than 2 hours!

Find out how to keep your kids safe from the dangers of button batteries.
 

Why are button batteries dangerous for kids?

Young children love to put things in their mouth, ears and nose as they explore, so parents and caregivers need to be aware of the potential risks that button batteries can cause.

Most button batteries are the size of a 10 cents coin and pass through the body without a problem. But if a button battery, particularly a lithium coin battery, comes into contact with bodily fluids when swallowed or ingested, it creates an electrical current and the energy from the battery can make the body create caustic soda (the chemical used to unblock drains!).

This can cause deep and extremely fast corrosion burns through the throat or other organs and lead to serious internal bleeding and sometimes death.

Lithium coin batteries are even more powerful and 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.

It’s not just swallowing batteries that can cause harm, button batteries that get stuck in your children’s ears or nose can be potentially dangerous too.
 

Where are button batteries found?

Button batteries are becoming increasingly common and 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. These include:
  • small remote controls
  • car key fobs
  • calculators
  • thermometers
  • hearing aids
  • digital scales
  • musical greetings cards
  • novelty toys
  • watches
  • flameless candles and nightlights
 

Keeping kids safe from button batteries

In New Zealand, one child a month needs emergency surgery to remove an ingested button battery, which can cause severe burns to their throats and noses.

Although less serious incidents are likely to be underreported, at least 20 coin lithium battery ingestion cases are treated each year at Starship children's hospital in Auckland.

Keep kids safe from button batteries by:
 
  • Keeping products with batteries well out of reach if the battery compartment isn’t secured with a screw.
 
  • Keeping all spare batteries out of your children’s reach and sight, ideally in a high-up, lockable cupboard.
 
  • Avoiding toys from markets or temporary shops as they may not conform to safety regulations.
 
  • Teaching older children that button batteries are dangerous and not to play with them or give them to younger brothers and sisters.
 
  • Remembering that even used batteries can be dangerous, so recycle them safely.


What to do if your child swallows a button battery

Although it might not be obvious at first, if parents or caregivers suspect that their child has swallowed or ingested a battery, they should be taken to hospital immediately.

They may still be breathing normally or have developed cold or flu-like symptoms, but if you suspect anything at all, you need to act fast.
 
  • Take your child straight to the A&E department at your local hospital or dial 111 for an ambulance.
  • Do not let your child eat or drink anything.
  • Do not make them sick.
  • Do not wait to see if any symptoms develop
 

More information

For more information about the potential harm that button batteries and lithium coin batteries can do visit the SafeKids website.

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