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Button batteries – risk to small children of choking and burns

Published: 30/08/2019

Flintshire Trading Standards Officers would like to remind residents of the dangers that button or coin batteries can present to young children. 

These batteries can be found all around our homes and work places to power everyday items including car keys, remote controls, watches, night lights, flameless candles, hearing aids, toys and musical greetings cards.

When used in the correct type of product and safely and securely fitted in to an item, or stored correctly in the original packaging until needed, they pose minimal risk.  However, when batteries are not securely fitted into an item, are being stored loose as spares, or have been removed and not disposed of properly, they can present a danger to the health and safety of people and particularly young children.

If swallowed, they represent a choking hazard to children, particularly the larger size which can completely obstruct a child’s airway.

They also present a chemical hazard when swallowed - a lithium battery produces caustic soda when in contact with saliva.  Caustic soda will attack and burn soft tissue and can, in severe cases, lead to death.

Trading Standards officers advise regular checks on any toys or other items which use these batteries to ensure the battery compartment is secure, any screws or clips in place are tight and fully in position, and that the item is not damaged.  Also, always ensure that they are kept in the original packaging or a container that is kept out of reach of children. Always dispose of dead batteries properly, they still pose the same risks of choking and burns. 

Where it is suspected that a button battery has been swallowed you should seek medical attention immediately as seconds count where there is risk of increased soft tissue damage.

Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Public Protection, Councillor Chris Bithell, said:

“Button batteries when used, stored, and disposed of properly are a safe and useful product that allow us all to enjoy a wide range of benefits in our day to day lives. Protecting the health, safety and well-being of our communities and businesses across Flintshire is of the highest priority to the council, with the protection of the youngest members of our community being of paramount concern. I fully support the advice of our Trading Standards officers in taking these simple steps to protect our children.”

Simple steps to protect children:

  • Always store spare batteries securely and out of children’s reach.
  • Be aware which items in your home use button batteries.
  • If a battery powered item is broken or faulty, get it fixed or get rid of it safely.
  • Teach older children why button batteries are dangerous.
  • Always get rid of dead button batteries as soon as they are removed ensuring safe storage and disposal.

Action to be taken if a button battery is swallowed:

  • Immediately take the child to a hospital A and E, or call for an ambulance.
  • On arrival at hospital tell the medical staff what you suspect has happened, where possible take any packaging for the battery with you as this will help the hospital identify the best form of treatment.
  • Do not give the child anything to eat or drink.
  • Do not try to make them sick.
  • Every second counts as any delay can result in increased damage to internal organs and even death.

Warning signs of a button battery having been swallowed include:

  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Sore Tummy
  • Drooling
  • Being sick
  • Blood in sick or poo

Symptoms of the effects of a button battery having been swallowed:

  • Upset stomach
  • Sore throat
  • Tiredness
  • Do not want to eat

Further information regarding button battery safety can be found at the following:

capt.org.uk/button-batteries

rospa.com/button-batteries

buttonbatterysafety.com

 


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