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.

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. 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.

The following symptoms may occur after swallowing a button battery:

  • gagging or choking
  • drooling
  • chest pain
  • coughing or noisy breathing
  • unexplained vomiting or food refusal
  • balck or red bowel motions or vomits
  • nose bleeds
  • unexplained 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

Look for products that do not run on button batteries

If you do buy button battery operated products, look for ones where the battery compartment requires a tool or dual simultaneous movements to open.  This will make it difficult for a young child to access the battery.

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 do not let the child eat or drink and do not induce vomiting.
  • Immediately call the Poisons Information Hotline on 13 11 26 for additional treatment information. You will be directed to an appropriate emergency service that can manage the injury. 
  • Tell others about the risk associated with button batteries and how to keep their children safe.

 

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