SMALL button batteries can kill babies and children.
That’s the stark warning from top doctors today – as millions of children are set to receive Christmas gifts powered by the lethal batteries.
It comes just months after two-year-old Elsie-Rose from Sheffield, almost died after one got lodged in her throat.
Her mum was told to give her “one last kiss” before her operation, with doctors at Sheffield Children’s Hospital warning she was “so close to death”, before taking her into surgery.
Burns and choking hazard
Now NHS England’s medical director Prof Stephen Powis and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is warning the batteries can burn through a child’s throat in a very short period of time.
And they warn they pose a choking risk – with toddlers mistaking them for sweets.
The Child Accident Trust says two children die every year in the UK from swallowing the batteries.
Several of the most-wanted toys this Christmas require button batteries, which also charge festive lights, TV remotes and other gadgets.
Easily mistaken for sweets
Prof Stephen Powis said: “For toddlers, button batteries can look like sweets and are found in anything from toys, musical Christmas cards and festive decorations, so we want to ensure parents are aware of the dangers of these potentially lethal batteries.
“The best way to protect children is simply by keeping batteries out of reach for children and ensure that any toys that require the batteries are firmly locked into the battery compartment.
“If you think your child may have swallowed a battery, urgently take them to A&E, and our incredible NHS staff – thousands of whom will be on shift on wards on Christmas Day – will be there to look after your child.”
Katrina Phillips, chief executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, added: “Button batteries keep us powered at Christmas.
“They light up our cards, jumpers and singing Santas and they’re the power behind many of the gifts on our Christmas lists.
“But if a button battery, particularly a big, powerful lithium coin cell battery, gets stuck in a small child’s food pipe, it can burn through, with the risk of serious injury or even death.
“So keep things with accessible button batteries and any spare or ‘dead’ batteries well away from curious little fingers.”
Earlier this year, experts urged parents to stay vigilant after a three-year-old girl died after ingesting a battery in the run up to Christmas 2017.
She swallowed a 23mm battery, but her symptoms were mistake for tonsillitis.
It can be hard to tell, especially with toddlers and babies, what a child has swallowed.
The one clear sign it could be a button battery is if your child starts to vomit up fresh, bright red blood.
If you suspect your child has swallowed a battery, go straight to A&E.
Other symptoms can include:
1. Suddenly developing cough, gag or drool a lot
2. Appearing to have a stomach upset or a virus
3. Being sick
4. Pointing to their throat or tummy
5. Having a pain in their tummy, chest or throat
6. Being tired or lethargic
7. Being quieter or more clingy than usual or otherwise ‘not themselves’
8. Losing their appetite or have a reduced appetite
9. Not wanting to eat solid food / be unable to eat solid food
What to do if you fear your child has swallowed a button battery
1. Go straight to A&E
2. Tell a doctor
3. Take the battery packaging or product with you
4. Don’t let them eat or drink
5. Don’t make them sick
The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) recently published a report making five safety recommendations to improve the safety and design of the batteries.
Keith Conradi, chief investigator for the HSIB, said: “Early detection by clinical staff of batteries swallowed by children is paramount.
“As our report clearly highlights if not detected early then the impact can be devastating.
How to protect your kids this Christmas
NHS England advises parents to follow the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accident’s advice to protect their kids.
Their tips include:
- Make sure that toys and other products using button batteries, such as small electronic devices, have lockable battery compartments. This should mean that they are safe for children to use as the batteries are locked away;
- Be extra vigilant with items including musical greeting cards, flameless candles and remote controls as they do not have lockable compartments. RoSPA advises that children should not be allowed to have access to these products if the battery compartment is not secure;
- Ensure that spare batteries are locked away, and used batteries are disposed of correctly;
- If a child swallows a battery, immediately take them to A&E.
“We are working with colleagues across the system to develop a clinical approach which could improve primary diagnosis and reduce cases of missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis.”
Ashley Martin, RoSPA public health adviser said: “We would encourage people to be vigilant in ensuring that all products that contain button batteries are kept well away from young children.
“It’s important to remember how harmful these products can be if picked up and swallowed.”