The dangers of button batteries for children

If you suspect that your child has ingested or placed a button battery in their nose or ear, you should immediately seek medical advice.

The dangers of button batteries for children
 Despite their small size, lithium button batteries can be fatal if swallowed.

Did you know that thousands of children are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year after ingesting button or lithium coin batteries? Both battery kinds are compact, shiny, and visually appealing to children. And both can cause serious injury or death if lodged in a child’s nose or ear or swallowed.

What are button and lithium coin batteries?

Although button and lithium coin batteries are not identical, both are small, circular batteries used to power various electrical gadgets. They are found in a variety of home items, including remote controls. Some games and toys, as well as flashing shoes, apparel, and jewellery designed for children, may also contain button batteries or lithium coin batteries.

These batteries contain potentially lethal components, including lithium, zinc silver, or manganese.

Why are button cell and lithium coin cell batteries dangerous?

If a coin lithium button battery gets stuck in a child’s throat, the saliva triggers an electrical current. This causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the oesophagus in as little as two hours. Damage can continue even after the battery is removed. Repairing the damage is painful and can require a feeding tube, breathing tubes and multiple surgeries.

Batteries stuck in the ear or nose can cause severe damage to structures, including the eardrum and nasal septum. Chemical burns can cause infections and, in some circumstances, irreversible impairments in breathing, smell, and hearing.

5 Safety measures for parents

Parents and caregivers should not assume that all home battery-powered products are safe for children to use. These batteries are often easily accessible in numerous devices or can be dislodged if the product is dropped.

  1. Look for batteries in child-resistant packaging.
  2. Ensure that the battery compartments of all electronic devices are taped shut and securely closed.
  3. Keep in mind while replacing a button or lithium coin battery, that it ceases to operate a device well before running out of juice. Therefore, a “dead” battery can still cause injury to a child if it becomes lodged in their ear, nose, throat, or swallowing route.
  4. As battery voltage increases from 1.5V to 3V, so does the injury rate. 
  5. To securely dispose of lithium button and coin batteries, wrap them in tape and promptly recycle or place them in an outside trash can.

Symptoms

Symptoms of coin-sized button battery ingestion may be similar to other childhood illnesses, such as coughing, drooling, lethargy, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, and a sore throat. In some cases, children may vomit fresh, bright red blood. If you suspect your child has ingested a button battery, seek medical attention immediately.