Battery risks to children

Small in size. Risk of a large problem
The poster by Newcastle City Council’s
Trading Standards department on button cell batteries.

What do key fobs, musical toy books and calculators all have in common? All three, along with some remote controls and other electrical devices are powered by small button cell batteries.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is warning parents about the dangers of children swallowing these batteries as with more and more compact electronic devices appearing in the home, the risk of children swallowing these small batteries is increasing.

We all know that very young children find out about the world by putting things in their mouths, but what many parents don’t realise is that lithium batteries react with saliva so that they leak acid within as little as an hour.

Therefore, if a child swallows a battery it can cause severe trauma, such as burning a hole in their throat or stomach or further damage to other internal organs within a few hours.

The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit in Australia estimates that four children a week are admitted to hospital after swallowing batteries. Meanwhile, the National Capitol Poison Centre in the USA reports that there are around 3,500 incidents a year where swallowed batteries require urgent treatment. Newcastle City Council’s trading standards officers also launched a safety campaign highlighting this issue this year in a proactive approach to preventing further injuries.

So what can we all do to protect our children from these dangers? Some products (predominantly toys) have lockable battery compartments and these should mean that they are safe for our children to use.

Other products though, such as musical greeting cards, flameless candles and remote controls do not have lockable compartments, and so it is with these products that parents need to be extra vigilant.

RoSPA advises that children should not be allowed to have access to these products if the battery compartment is not secure. Also, it is a very good idea to ensure that spare batteries are locked away, and used batteries are disposed of correctly.

Most importantly, if your child does swallow a button cell battery you should, seek medical advice immediately. Remember that the saliva in their body will react with the battery and so time is very much of the essence in these cases.

It is always better to be safe than sorry, so please look after your little ones.

For more information about child safety or please see RoSPA advice pages or RoSPA product safety pages.

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents 7 October 2013

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