Dangers of button cell batteries and small toys
Lithium batteries can be fatal
The festive period can typically see a rise in the number of small, button-shaped lithium cell batteries introduced to the home as they're contained in electronic items, including:
- musical Christmas cards
- remote controls
Young children are naturally inquisitive, and explore the world in part by putting things in their mouths.
As new and interesting electronic items are introduced into the family home, the potential for children to swallow button cell batteries increases. This can lead to:
If undetected, button cell batteries can do serious damage to the gastrointestinal system.
Lithium batteries react with saliva, setting up an electrical current which results in a build-up of caustic soda, which will burn through the oesophagus and major blood vessels.
This can cause serious, life-changing injury and if not caught in time, can be fatal.
You can see the damage they can do in the video at this link:
How to protect young children
There are a few simple things that can be done to help protect young children from the dangers of button cell batteries:
- battery compartments should be checked to make sure they can’t be opened or broken easily
- parents need to make sure that battery compartments are lockable - check that these are secure and undamaged and do not use toys that don’t have lockable compartments
- take care when changing batteries to make sure the compartment is secured afterwards and the old battery is disposed of safely
- keep spare batteries in a safe place out of reach of children
Treat these batteries the same way you would any poisonous substance – out of reach and out of sight.
It's also important in general to:
- follow manufacturer guidelines
- use your own judgement to select toys that are appropriate for the age and ability of the child
If you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery, seek medical help immediately.
Choosing a small toy
Some children, particularly those under three, are more vulnerable to choking and are less able to cope with some toys than older children.
Therefore it is important to buy age-appropriate toys.
You should also think about the ability and needs of the child – there can be significant differences in the abilities of children within the same age group, as children develop as different paces.
If you think there are risks associated with the toy, then it is best to avoid buying it.