There are many domestic dangers that continue to cause young children serious harm at home.
Babies and toddlers are at particular risk as they explore the world by putting things in their mouths. Button batteries burn and can cause serious damage even proving fatal.
Watch this button battery burn through ham:
In the wrong hands, button batteries can be deadly.
A national campaign aims to make parents aware of the extreme dangers of these small unassuming batteries in order to raise awareness and save lives.
The first campaign designed by the Child Accident Prevention Trust concerns button batteries – Where are yours? #BeBatteryAware. It is a campaign designed to encourage parents to know where lithium coin cell batteries are in their homes, as well as those in products and additionally, spare and ‘flat’ batteries. This is so they can keep them out of children’s reach and keep children safe.
A global problem
RoSPA reports: According to the National Capitol Poison Centre in the USA, there are around 3,500 incidents reported every year in the USA where swallowed batteries require urgent treatment. Australia sees four children a week admitted to hospital after swallowing batteries.
Great Ormond Street Hospital
London based Great Ormond Street Hospital reported a rise in treating cases of children who had swallowed a button battery. Over a decade ago, cases were uncommon. In 2016, the hospital estimated it was treating one child per month.
Find out more from GOSH here: https://www.gosh.nhs.uk/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-we-treat/button-batteries-using-them-safely
Who is most at risk?
Sadly, according to the Child Accident Prevention Trust, at least two children a year have died as a result of swallowing lithium coin cell batteries in this country.
Children most at risk are between 1 and 4 years, but younger and older children can also be at risk.
Older children can be fascinated by them too. In some cases, in order to experience the tingling sensation of the electrical charge on their tongue, older children may deliberately put one of these batteries in their mouth.
Find out more here: https://www.capt.org.uk/button-batteries
Know the danger of button batteries
Button batteries burn. The damage is noticeable within just 30 minutes and if the child does not receive immediate medical help, they may die. Often, the first anyone knows that a button battery has been swallowed is when the child starts vomiting blood – but this is usually too late.
The danger of button batteries
Button batteries and lithium coin batteries are small, round, batteries used in toys, cards, watches, key fobs, calculators, hearing aids and numerous other everyday objects. They look to be totally harmless and you would think that if they were swallowed, that they would pass straight through and out the other end. Whist sometimes the battery can come out the other end, with no problem, sadly it is usually not the case.
What would happen if one was swallowed?
We need batteries in loads of electronic gadgets around the home, hospitals are reporting an increase in life-changing injuries resulting from these innocent-looking culprits. If a child swallows one and it gets stuck at any point in its journey; then it continues to emit its charge (even if it was already considered to be ‘dead’ when swallowed). This creates corrosive caustic soda which burns through the tissue and causes horrendous damage and internal bleeding.
Lithium coin batteries are particularly dangerous. These have a higher voltage and so release more energy and are more corrosive. Damage in just a few hours can prove fatal. In most cases, parents have no idea their child has swallowed a battery until they start vomiting blood. By then, it is often too late to help as irreparable damage has already occurred.
Prevention and vigilance are key:
• Always check that battery compartments on electronic gadgets are securely fastened (usually with a screw).
• If a battery is missing and you think it likely your child may have swallowed it, take your child to A&E for an x-ray to be sure.
• If a battery compartment isn’t secured with a screw; ensure the gadget is kept safely out of the reach of children. Avoid buying products that do not conform to EU safety standards.
• Store spare batteries carefully; somewhere inaccessible to children, ideally in a high-up, lockable cupboard. Button batteries are potentially as dangerous as medicines and your cleaning products and should be treated as such.
• Inform your whole family about the dangers of button batteries.
• Recycle used batteries safely, as these too are dangerous
If you think your child may have swallowed a button battery, ACT FAST
Remember that the saliva in their body will react with the battery and so time is very much of the essence.
• Take them to your nearest A&E as quickly as possible Remember that the saliva in their body will react with the battery and so time is very much of the essence.
• Tell the triage nurse that you think they have swallowed a battery. Take the gadget with you so the staff can identify the type of battery you are worried about.
• Do not wait for any signs or symptoms
• Do not try to make them sick
• Make sure you do not give them anything to eat or drink. They may need an anaesthetic in order to be operated on
Your child will be x-rayed to establish whether the battery is there or not and if so, where it is lodged. If necessary, they will be taken for an operation to remove the battery as a matter of urgency.
Please do follow this advice on how to prevent accidents happening in the first place. Also spread the word on how to keep children safe around button batteries.
First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. It is strongly advised that you attend a First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.