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Lethal dangers of button batteries

The small, round, lithium batteries, which are used to power many of the novelty toys and decorative items used over the Christmas & New Year period, can be fatal if swallowed. Parents also need to be aware that as batteries run out, the risks increase when they are replaced, as seemingly dead batteries can be just as dangerous.

One nursery-aged child from the Fylde Coast died last year just hours after swallowing one of the batteries, which can be easily mistaken for a small sweet and only needs to be swallowed, not bitten or damaged in any way, to cause severe harm.

Dr Nicky Bamford, designated doctor for safeguarding at NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, has urged parents to be extremely careful so their children cannot get hold of the danger devices. She said: “When the battery gets stuck anywhere in the gut it sets up an electrical current while in contact with the lining of the gut”.

A build-up of caustic soda then burns through the chest and the child begins to bleed. It’s not always easy to spot but it needs to be removed within the first two hours otherwise the damage could be too severe, so it is best to simply make sure children cannot get hold of them in the first place.”

Doctors advise that if a child swallows a button battery, do not wait for symptoms to develop and take them straight to the nearest A&E or dial 999 for an ambulance. Do not let them eat or drink and do not try to make them sick.

Button batteries are found in many household items, such as; small remote controls, watches, hearing aids, novelty toys, thermometers and many other everyday objects.

To help keep children safe:

• Always try to buy toys from reputable retailers
• Educate older children on the dangers and keeping them away from younger siblings
• Keep spare batteries out of reach, preferably in a locked cupboard
• If the battery compartment isn’t secure with a screw, then keep out of reach of children

For further information on keeping your children safe from button batteries go to: http://capt.org.uk/safety-advice/keeping-children-safe-button-batteries