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Parents warned about the dangers of button batteries after child dies

Small batteries for toys and devices at Christmas pose a serious risk to toddlers

If you’re celebrating Christmas with young children this year, make sure all batteries, but especially button batteries, are out of reach of little hands due to the risk of the batteries being ingested.

Small, round button batteries are often used in toys and other small devices such as remote controls and car fobs. These can be easily swallowed and can cause permanent damage if they end up lodged in your child’s oesophagus, as they can burn a hole through the lining.

The risk isn’t just with ingesting them, though, as they can cause significant injury if a child sticks them up their nose or in their ear. This is because as soon as a battery comes into contact with a wet surface, it starts to discharge a current. This causes a chemical reaction and within a few hours serious burns can occur.

Read on to find out more about the risks posed by button batteries. Or visit our product safety hub, which is packed with tools, tips and advice to protect your home from unsafe products.

The recent investigation into button batteries

Following the death of a child who swallowed a button battery earlier this year, the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) has conducted an investigation and released a warning to all parents this Christmas.

They’ve called for parents to be extra vigilant, especially with button batteries with a diameter of 20mm or more, as those are more likely to get stuck in a toddler’s throat.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) has released a short video to raise awareness of this danger:

Katrina Phillips, chief executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, said: ‘Festive tea lights, singing Santas and flashing Christmas wands are all powered by lithium coin cell batteries, many of them easily accessible to curious little fingers. We’re concerned that small children put everything in their mouths, with potentially lethal consequences.

‘We’re encouraging families to keep potentially dangerous products out of reach of babies, toddlers and small children, and to be equally careful about where they store spare and used batteries. Even an apparently ‘flat’ battery has enough power to cause serious harm if it gets stuck.’

How to protect your child from batteries this Christmas

These tips from HSIB will help you to prevent any serious battery-related injuries from occurring over the festive period.

  • Teach children that button batteries are dangerous.
  • Check household gadgets such as remote controls (TV, audio) and digital scales are safely out of reach of children, and consider other items that might also have batteries (greeting cards, flameless candles, key fobs) which may not have the back secured with a screw.
  • Remember that even used batteries can be dangerous: never leave them on the side, and put them out of children’s reach straight away. Recycle them safely.
  • Check for discarded or old remote controls or fobs around the house which may contain old batteries.
  • New toys often come with batteries included in the packaging – don’t lose them in the chaos of present unwrapping.
  • Think about where you store spare batteries and keep them in a high, lockable cupboard.
  • Where a toy or device has batteries, check that they are secured with a screw.

A recent Which? investigation has also revealed the dangers of some toy ‘slimes’ that contain chemicals up to four times higher than the EU safety limit. See which ones you should avoid for children’s gifts this Christmas.

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