Since 2013, three Australian children under three have lost their lives after swallowing a button battery; four-year-old Summer Steer, 14-month-old Isabella Rees and three-year-old Brittany Conway.

In addition to these tragic deaths, it is estimated that one child in Australia needs to be hospitalised every day because they have swallowed a button battery. Of these kids, one child a month is also seriously injured, with some sustaining lifelong injuries. 

All because of a button battery. 

button battery safety plea allison rees and andrea shoesmith
Isabella and Summer, two of the little girls who have lost their lives after swallowing button batteries.

Button battery warning

Many people are unaware that these batteries are so dangerous if swallowed. But they are – once ingested, they start to attack from the inside, affecting the bowels, oesophagus, nose and ears. 

There is currently no regulation in place (but the ACCC is working very hard to change this), however, there are some button battery safety tips that all parents need to know, especially with the lead-up to Christmas.

After all, plenty of Christmas gifts, toys and Christmas decorations have button batteries. 

Button battery safety tips 

1. Store safely

Keep new and used button batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children. High shelves, locked cupboards – places your kids cannot get to. Even old or spent button batteries can retain enough charge to cause life-threatening injuries. 

2. Opt for button-battery free products

When choosing gifts, go button battery-free, if you can! This eliminates the risk. So many products (and Christmas gifts) have button batteries – watches, remotes, toys, torches, but there are alternatives. 

3. Check the compartments

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.

4. Dispose of properly 

As soon as you have finished using a button battery, put sticky tape around both sides of the battery and dispose of it immediately in an outside bin, out of reach of children, or recycle safely.

5. Know the symptoms of button battery ingestion

It takes two seconds for a child to find one on the floor, ingest it, and keep on playing. Many parents are not aware their children have swallowed a battery. Three-year-old Brittany went 8 days before it was discovered she swallowed a battery through an X-ray. 

This is why it’s important to know the symptoms: 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.

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. If you know they have swallowed a button battery, call 000 immediately. 

Additional safety tips during the festive season

Of course, button batteries are only one of the many hazards to watch out for at Christmas. Battery World has some great general battery safety tips for you to keep the kids safe at Christmas, especially around Christmas lights.

  • Before you start setting up your Christmas decorations, make sure you check the cables for any cracks, exposed wires or frayed ends.
  • Make sure your batteries are new if they have been stored away for the past year.
  • Indoor and outdoor Christmas lights are different, with the cables built for different purposes and conditions, so don’t use indoor lighting outside! 
  • When shopping for outdoor lights, make sure the ones you get are durable and have waterproof battery packs.
  • For any length of cord not used, make sure to tape it down, as the last thing you want is preventable tripping leading to rather disgruntled relatives!
  • Place your lights away from any flammable materials like gas bottles, and avoid confining the cables by placing them under rugs, mats and into tight spaces where they can overheat and cause damage.
  • When you’re heading to bed, turn your lights off to make sure they don’t overheat or cause any damage while you’re out. 
  • Store them safely when you’re done in a tightly sealed container with cables neatly piled away to avoid any deterioration, poor storage conditions or nasty pests chewing on the cables. 

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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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