Along with the mega-mountain of toys, toys, and more toys that Santa brings, comes the need for batteries. Gone are the silent playthings of the past – with toys that light-up, whir, squeal, squawk, speak, move and groove quickly becoming the norm.
Before you break out the battery-powered toys, put safety first. Even though a toy may be age-rated for your little one, don’t count out the dangers from what lurks inside.
Two days after Christmas an Oklahoma toddler, Brianna Florer, died after swallowing a lithium battery. The 2-year-old reportedly ingested the battery within six days of her death. Florer had a low-grade fever and was vomiting prior to showing any major complications. When the little girl began throwing up blood her family rushed her to a local Tulsa hospital. An x-ray revealed the battery. Doctors believe that the battery ate through the 2-year-old’s carotid artery, causing the extreme bleeding. Despite an emergency surgery, Brianna died several hours into the operation.
The family, who have three other children, have begun a Go Fund Me campaign for financial support during this difficult time. The post says “Please find it in your heart to donate money to help pay for this sweet little angels funeral expenses as the family will need time to heal from such a tragedy and will be missing some work ect. But most of all please add them to your prayers.”
Sadly, Brianna’s case is not unusual. Batteries, even the small button-sized ones, can quickly get stuck in a child’s throat and burn through the oesophagus. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, this can happen in as little as two hours after ingestion.
The ACCC notes that roughly 20 children visit emergency departments each week for button battery-related issues.
What can you do right now to keep your child safe?
Well, you could remove all batteries from each and every toy and stash them away or dispose of them. But, that’s probably not reasonable. Instead, keep safety key. Never give your child a toy, electronic item or anything else that contains an unsecured battery compartment. This means that your child should only have access to toys (and other battery-powered items) with compartments that locks together with screws or other completely secure means. A simple tab and lock mechanism won’t cut it when it comes to kids. Don’t assume that your child, even if she’s very young, won’t be able to open the clasp or compartment.
Keep in mind, that pile of playthings in the toy bin isn’t the only place where the kiddos can find batteries. You may not think much of your tot munching away on your key ring, but it could contain a hidden danger. Your TV’s remote control, keyless entry devices, musical greeting cards and other electronics that you use daily all have potential hazardous batteries. Always keep these away from your child. Another must-do when it comes to battery safety is supervision. Always keep a watchful eye on your child during playtimes and when she is near your battery-operated devices.
According to the Battery Controlled campaign, children under age 4 are most at risk when it comes to swallowing batteries. That said, a child of any age could still swallow a battery – making safety precautions necessary all of the time.
What happens in the event of the unthinkable? Despite your best efforts, your child accidentally swallows a battery. Now what? Don’t wait. Immediately seek professional medical attention, even if your child shows no symptoms. Don’t assume that swallowing a battery will cause immediate dramatic symptoms. Even though the situation is serious, your child may only seem mildly sick. Some children may have signs that mimic common illnesses. These can include coughing, drooling or feelings of discomfort. Whether your child has no symptoms, minor ones or major pain, go directly to the emergency department. Saliva can set off an electrical current in your child’s throat, causing burns to the oesophagus. Never induce vomiting or allow your child to eat or drink. If you have the battery’s packaging on hand, bring it with you to the hospital and show the doctor.
Yes, the facts on battery injury are scary. There’s no disputing that. But, that doesn’t mean you have to live your life as a parent in fear. With proper prevention measures (such as supervision and securely locked compartments) you can keep your child safe. So, keep those latches firmly screwed in place and never leave batteries out in your child’s reach. This includes batteries that you may think no longer work. Always immediately, and properly, dispose of all batteries – away from your child. Simply tossing that button battery in the trash leaves it in reach of her little fingers.
The Australian Battery Recycling Initiative maintains an up-to-date list of collection and recycling services for all types of batteries, including the lithium-ions ones that you may find in your child’s toys. Not only does recycling help to keep your child safe, but it helps the planet by reducing the environmental impact that batteries have!