We are well and truly on the countdown to Christmas (5 weeks today), typically a time of year when we enjoy giving that perfect gift to our children and loved ones. But something you may not be aware of, is that toy batteries are very toxic and can be very dangerous if a child consumes them. Seemingly harmless these tiny button toy batteries can cause catastrophic, life-threatening injuries to children. They are often used across a range of gifts from watches, calculators, remote controls, LED lights, key fobs (e.g.: car keys), digital thermometers but most importantly electronic toys and some greeting cards which make a sound.
Button toy batteries come in a number of different sizes but small, generally 1-2cm in diameter, meaning that they are of a similar size and shape to some sweets and therefore easily swallowed. The Royal Society of the Prevention of Accidents is increasingly concerned about the danger posed by these 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 they swallow a battery, 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. Sometimes, symptoms of swallowing a button battery do not become immediately obvious. Children may have breathing difficulties or generally feel unwell. If the swallowed button battery starts to cause problems, children may cough up or vomit blood. Batteries inserted into the nose or ear can also cause problems, such as nosebleeds or bleeding from the ear.
To see an example of the impact of a battery on a child please watch this BBC video.
We wanted to share with you some safety tips to ensure that your children remain safe when it comes to batteries, this Christmas:
- KEEP OUT OF REACH: Keep devices with button batteries out of reach, try to secure any loose battery compartments and lock away any loose or spare batteries.
- RELIABLE SOURCES: Only buy toys and other equipment from reliable sources, they are more likely to have passed safety regulations.
- TAKE THEM TO HOSPITAL: If a child swallows a button battery or gets one stuck in their nose or ear, take them straight to the nearest A&E department. Don’t be afraid to call an ambulance, it could save their life. Dial 999, not 111.
- NIL BY MOUTH: If you do have a child who has swallowed a battery, do not let them eat or drink anything and do not try to make them sick.
- GET HELP FAST: It is important to get to hospital as soon as possible and the sooner the battery can be removed, the less chance of permanent damage. Don’t “wait and see”, you don’t have the luxury of time being on your side, in fact, lithium batteries can cause damage within 2hrs of being consumed.
- SHARE THIS MESSAGE: spread the word so people know what to do if the worst does happen.
We all have items which need batteries and the law is very clear on toys needing button cell batteries to be inaccessible to children. However, we would like for all parents to be more aware of how something so small can cause such terrible injuries to our little ones.
Stay safe this Christmas!