Christmas time for many of us is an opportunity to get together, spend time with our family, eat great food and relax. 

It’s also wonderful to see the younger members of the family enjoy the magic of Christmas and get stuck into all their new toys!

One thing I bet you haven’t considered is batteries.

We know that it’s one thing making sure that you have enough batteries for every gadget and gizmo, but what about the ones that you didn’t buy?

Button batteries can cause real fatalities. And quick.

Worryingly, this is something that not many people even know about.

These are the kinds of batteries that live in fidget spinners, children’s toys, thermometers, calculators, musical cards, novelty items, and household scales. These are items that you would assume are extremely safe for a child to be exposed to.

But why the threat?

‘Most button batteries pass through the body without a problem. But if a button battery – particularly a lithium coin battery, gets stuck in the throat or gullet, energy from the battery reacts with saliva to make the body create caustic soda. This is the same chemical used to unblock drains! This can burn a hole through the throat and can lead to catastrophic internal bleeding and death. The reaction can happen in as little as two hours.’ Says the CAPT (Child Accident Prevention Trust)

These small and unassuming batteries are proving particularly fatal to children. If left on the side whilst changing them, or loose in drawers, it is so easy for young children to get hold of them. Even if these batteries are considered used and ineffective, they can still prove extremely harmful to children if ingested as they will still hold enough electrical charge to cause injury.

Did you know that at least 2 children a year have died as a result of swallowing a button battery, in this country alone? It’s terrifying for a parent. Given the statistics, in the time of year where batteries and toys are aplenty, we want to spread awareness and make sure parents take the necessary precautions when using, changing and storing these batteries.

✅Always keep batteries out of reach and sight in a high up, lockable place

✅Keep products with ill-fitting batteries also out of sight and reach

✅Avoid purchasing toys from markets as these are unlikely to conform to safety regulations and pose a higher threat (also take care with online and overseas items)

✅Teach older children to keep certain items containing the batteries away from younger, more vulnerable children

But we are all human. All parents can turn their heads for a second and miss things like this.

There are no obvious symptoms a child will display if they have swallowed a battery, but you can look out for these tell tale signs:

They may:

  • show signs of something stuck in the throat like coughing, gagging or drooling a lot
  • appear to have a stomach upset or a virus
  • point to their throat or tummy.

Other symptoms:

  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • pain
  • Nausea

If you suspect that your child may have swallowed one of your batteries, you need to act fast. Below are the steps you should take in this emergency situation:

  1. Take them straight to the A&E department at your local hospital or dial 999 for an ambulance.
  2. Tell the doctor there that you think your child has swallowed a button battery.
  3. If you have the battery packaging or the product powered by the battery, take it with you. This will help the doctor identify the type of battery and make treatment easier.
  4. Do not let your child eat or drink.
  5. Do not make them sick.
  6. Trust your instincts and act fast – do not wait to see if any symptoms develop.

Kerrie Heath, a Mum who had a button battery emergency has been working with the HSIB (Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch), and advises that it is imperative to ‘know your toys and where the batteries are! Store spare batteries well. And if you think your child has swallowed a battery or put one in ears/noses etc, seek A&E attention immediately.’

From all of us here at SkillBase First Aid, we hope you have a very Safe (and Merry) Christmas and New Year.

And remember – If in doubt, get it checked out!


Richard Craddock · December 17, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Fantastic article – with some really useful information. Thanks Jess!

Grahame Every · December 17, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Very good and timely advice, but it applies all year round, never relax vigilance!

    Jessica Clarke-Wheatley · December 18, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks Grahame, we agree! W just thought it was particularly important for parents this time of year!

Howard Knowles · December 18, 2018 at 11:51 pm

Thanks everyone really helpful at this time of year and any time of year have a great Christmas and a happy new year

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