It all started with a sore throat. Followed by vomiting, chest pain, and food refusal.

Nine days later, three-year-old Brittany was hospitalised. Eight days after this, the adorable blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl in the picture above was confirmed dead.

The reason?

She had swallowed a button battery, the third little girl in Australia to die because of it. 

Brittney’s parents had no idea she had either. All they knew was that something was terribly wrong.

Brittney endured several days of pain before it was confirmed through X-Ray that she had in fact, swallowed something. By then though, it was too late.

Parents speak out in hopes of change

The heartbreak of losing a child is unimaginable. It’s taken Lorraine and David Conway four months to speak out publicly about what exactly happened to their daughter.

Now the Conways are sharing their daughter’s story in hopes it reminds other parents of the dangers of button batteries. They are also begging the government to regulate this common household item.

Button battery danger: Brittney’s story 

In early July 2020, Brittney swallowed a button battery.

A few days later, she complained of a sore throat and started vomiting. Her mum Lorraine called the doctor who thought it was food poisoning.

A few days after that, Brittney complained of chest pain and started to refuse foods. The next day she vomited in the car after eating solid food, had a sudden and unexplained nose bleed, and then complained of terrible pain in her chest.

Just a virus

Lorraine took her to Robina Hospital on the Gold Coast, where the doctor said she had a virus. Lorriane requested an X-Ry but Brittney didn’t receive one.

Brittney was sent home and Lorraine got more and more concerned as her daughter continued to complain of pain whenever she tried to eat. She returned to the doctor again and was told it was viral.

Nine days after first coming to her mum about a sore throat, Brittney coughed in the night. Lorraine went to check on her and discovered her unconscious, lying in a pool of blood.

Brittney was rushed to Gold Coast University Hospital where she underwent an X-Ray, and this is when the battery was discovered.

 The battery had burnt through her oesophagus, into her aorta.”

Button battery found too late

It took surgeons nine hours to remove the battery but doctors were unable to stabilise poor little Brittney. She was transferred to Queensland Children’s Hospital and underwent further surgeries.

For eight heartbreaking days, Brittney remained in hospital, with her parents unsure whether she would make it or not.

On July 28, they got their answer. Sadly, their daughter died in hospital, an estimated three weeks after she swallowed the button battery.

Brittney was the Conway’s youngest child and, as Lorraine shares,

She just had a beautiful nature … just a really content and happy little girl. She had a thousand sparkles in her eyes.”

Button batteries can kill

Brittney is not the only young child who has died from swallowing a button battery.

button battery safety plea allison rees and andrea shoesmith
Isabella and Summer both died after swallowing button batteries.
  • In 2013, four-year-old Summer Steer was the first child to die in Australia from swallowing a button battery.
  • Two years later, in 2015, Melbourne’s Isabella Rees, aged 14 months, also died from swallowing one of the batteries.

You can read both of these girls’ stories here. 

In addition to these tragic deaths, it is estimated that:

  • Every day in Australia there is at least one child who needs to be hospitalised because they have swallowed a button battery.
  • One child a month is seriously injured after swallowing or inserting a button battery, with some of them sustaining lifelong injuries.

No regulation on button batteries

Yet, as it stands now, there is no mandatory regulation of button batteries in Australia. 

For 40 years companies have been dumping these, what I call landmines, into our homes and they’ve known they’re problematic,” Kidsafe chief executive Susan Teerds told ABC News.

Senator Marielle Smith also shared her story with Mum Central, explaining why she is pushing for button battery regulation.

Button batteries CAN kill

FACT: Button batteries are everywhere

In remote controls, toys, watches, scales, and even in torches. It takes two seconds for a child to spot one, place it in their mouth, swallow it thinking it’s a shiny lolly (which it looks like!), and continue playing.

Within hours the battery starts to attack from the inside, affecting the bowels, oesophagus, nose and ears.

This is why it’s so important for parents to keep these dangerous things AWAY from children, to be aware of what can happen and for the government to step in and regulate button batteries. 

Tiny batteries, Big danger

Today the ACCC made a giant step in the right direction, launching their ‘Tiny batteries, Big danger’ safety campaign to remind parents of the dangers of button batteries.

The ACCC is also currently finalising regulatory options to address the dangers of button batteries before making a final recommendation to the Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Michael Sukkar later this year.


Keeping children AWAY from Button Batteries

Below are some tips from the ACCC to help parents and other carers understand the dangers of button batteries and how to create a safer home environment.

Know the symptoms of button battery ingestion

  • Symptoms may include gagging or choking, drooling, chest pain (grunting), coughing or noisy breathing, food refusal, black or red bowel motions, nose bleeds, spitting blood or blood-stained saliva, any unexplained vomiting, fever, abdominal pain or general discomfort.
  • Children are often unable to effectively communicate that they have swallowed or inserted a button battery and may have no symptoms initially.
  • If you suspect a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, you should ask for an X-Ray from a hospital emergency department to make sure.

What if your child ingests a button battery

  • If they are having trouble breathing, call 000 immediately.
  • If they are not having trouble breathing parents should call the Poisons Information Centre immediately on 13 11 26. You will be directed by staff to an emergency department that is best able to treat your child.

Button battery advice around the house

  • Keep new and used button batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children.
  • Even old or spent button batteries can retain enough charge to cause life-threatening injuries.
  • Look for products that do not use button batteries at all.
  • Examine products and make sure the compartment that houses the button battery is child-resistant, such as being secured with a screw.
  • Check that the product does not release the battery and it is difficult for a child to access. If the battery compartment does not close securely, stop using the product and keep it away from children.
  • As soon as you have finished using a button battery, put sticky tape around both sides of the battery and dispose of immediately in an outside bin, out of reach of children, or recycle safely.
  • Tell others about the risk associated with button batteries and how to keep their children safe.

Parents, we urge you to take five minutes today and check your house for button batteries. Place them far away from the kids, triple-check their toys, and talk to your kids about what to do if they find one.

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Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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