The festive period can typically see a rise in the number of these small, button-shaped batteries introduced to the home as they are contained in children’s toys, musical Christmas cards, remote controls and a host of other electronic items.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has said it is increasingly concerned about the danger posed by the batteries, and is aware of deaths having been reported in the UK as a result of them being swallowed by children.
Although a child may not choke, if undetected the batteries can do serious damage to the gastrointestinal system. Lithium batteries react with saliva setting up an electrical current resulting in a build up of caustic soda, which will burn through the oesophagus and other major blood vessels.
Five-year-old Eva McCafferty, from Northern Ireland, was one of the children unlucky enough to swallow a button battery. Aged just 14 months, Eva was admitted to hospital with life-threatening symptoms, with the battery having eroded her oesophagus. She required emergency surgery to remove the battery, and spent a prolonged time in intensive care.
Her mother Kathleen said: “We want to highlight the dangers to other families, as we were not aware of how devastating the effects of swallowing one of these batteries could be. We don’t want any other children to have to go through what Eva did.”
Sheila Merrill, public health adviser for RoSPA, said: “Young children are naturally inquisitive, and explore the world in part by putting things in their mouths.
“As more and more electronic items are introduced into the family home, the potential for children to swallow button batteries increases, and this can lead to choking or poisoning.
“We want parents, grandparents, childminders and carers to be aware of the danger and understand that these seemingly harmless little batteries can cause serious injury to children.”
Parents should make sure that toys and other products using the batteries have lockable battery compartments so they are safe for children to use. Be extra vigilant with musical Christmas cards, frameless candles and remote controls – RoSPA advises that children are not given access to these products.
Ensure that spare batteries are locked away, and spent ones disposed of correctly.
If your child swallows a battery, seek medical advice immediately. Remember that the saliva in their body will react with the battery, so time is of the essence.
For more information, visit www.rospa.com/home-safety/advice/product/button-cell-batteries