Button batteries

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Every week, around 20 Australian children present to an emergency department following exposure to button batteries, including ingestions and insertions. Keep products with button batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children.

Lithium button batteries are found in many common household products, such as remote control car keys, TV remote controls, calculators, kitchen and bathroom scales and greeting cards.

Risks and injuries

Button batteries are a little known but severe injury risk for children. Every week, around 20 Australian children present to an emergency department following exposure to button batteries, including ingestions and insertions. Incidents are most common among very young children and toddlers, with the majority of cases involving children younger than six years.

If swallowed, coin-sized lithium button batteries can lodge in a child’s system. An electrical current is immediately triggered by saliva, which causes a chemical reaction that can cause severe burns to the child’s oesophagus and internal organs such as the lungs, heart, arteries and spine. This can take only a few hours, resulting in serious injury or death. These injuries can occur even if the battery that is swallowed has gone flat.

Once burning begins, damage can continue even after the battery is removed and repairing the damage can be painful and may require multiple surgeries.

Symptoms that may occur after swallowing a button battery include:

  • chest pain
  • coughing
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • abdominal pain
  • fever

These symptoms are similar to many other conditions and may not appear for some time, so it may not be suspected that the child has swallowed a battery.

Buying tips

If buying a household device or novelty that uses a button battery, make sure that the battery compartment cannot be opened by a child.

Safe use

  • Keep products with button batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children.
  • Examine devices and make sure a child cannot gain access to the batteries inside.
  • Dispose of used button batteries immediately. Flat batteries can still be dangerous.
  • If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, immediately go to a hospital emergency room. Do not let the child eat or drink and do not induce vomiting.
  • Call the Poisons Information Hotline on 13 11 26 for additional treatment information.
  • Tell others about the risk associated with button batteries and how to keep their children safe.

 

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