Button battery dangers – Protect your grandchildren

We use them to power hearing aids, reading lights, cameras, glucometers, greeting cards and children’s toys. In fact, they’ve become a small and convenient component in many household items. But button batteries can pose several problems of their own.

Key Points

  • New and old button batteries pose a serious threat to young children
  • Take steps to keep batteries out of the reach of children
  • Know what to do if a child swallows a battery 

Button batteries are small round silver batteries that look like coins or something tasty to small children. 

And there’s the problem. Older people especially need the little batteries to power more and more health and household items. New and used batteries can easily be left around the house and indeed some device instructions recommend taking them out of the device or leaving the battery compartment open to stop the battery losing power.

Grandparents are being advised to secure the batteries out of the reach of inquisitive young children.

Take steps to keep your children safe

If swallowed, a button battery can become stuck in a child’s throat and result in catastrophic injuries and even death. Insertion of button batteries into body orifices such as ears and noses can also lead to significant injuries. 

Knowing the big danger this little battery poses means you can take steps to keep your children safe.  

If you suspect your child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, call the Poisons Information Centre immediately on 13 11 26 for 24/7 fast, expert advice.  

If your child is having any difficulty breathing, contact 000. More on this later.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) you can protect your family by following these steps: 

  • Check before you buy

Look for products that do not use button batteries. Other types of batteries are less likely to be swallowed by young children and do not present the same degree of danger if they are.  

Alternatively, look for products where the battery does not need to be replaced, such as where the product is rechargeable.

Check for a child-resistant battery compartment, if you do buy button-battery-operated products. Buy new button batteries in child-resistant packaging.

  • Secure button batteries

Make sure the device’s battery compartment is child-resistant (for example, secured with a screw), so that the product does not release the battery and it is difficult for a young child to access it. If the product is damaged or the button battery compartment does not close securely, stop using the product and keep it away from children.

  • Store them out of reach of children

Keep new and used button batteries out of sight and reach of children at all times.

Keep spare button batteries locked away where it is difficult for children to reach them.

  • Dispose safely

Even when old or spent, button batteries can still pose a threat, so safely dispose of them immediately. As soon as you have finished using a button battery, put sticky tape around both sides of the battery. This will make them less attractive to children and avoid the low risk of them catching fire.

Dispose of them immediately in an outside bin, out of reach of children, or recycle safely. 

Prompt action is critical

Do not wait for symptoms to develop. 

Call the Poisons Information Centre immediately on 13 11 26  

Do not let the child eat or drink, and do not induce vomiting.

Children are often unable to effectively communicate that they have swallowed or inserted a button battery. There may be none of the symptoms below. If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, ask for an X-ray from a hospital emergency department.

Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • gagging or choking
  • drooling
  • chest pain (this may present as grunting)
  • coughing or noisy breathing
  • unexplained vomiting or food refusal
  • bleeding from the gut — black or red vomit or bowel motions
  • nose bleeds — sometimes this can be blood vomited through the nose
  • unexplained fever
  • abdominal pain
  • general discomfort
  • spitting blood or blood-stained saliva
  • bloody discharge from ear or nose.