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Child Accident Prevention Trust Button Battery Treasure Hunt to cut risk of catastrophic incidents

Jill Paterson and Christy Allen highlight the deadly dangers of button batteries, the advocacy efforts being made to reduce the numbers of accidents involving them, and what families can do this week to make their homes safer without them

Posted on 27 July 2020

Button batteries - also known as ‘coin batteries’ or ‘coin cell batteries’- are small, round batteries that come in many different sizes and types and work by mixing two chemicals together to create electrical energy.

They power many common household objects such as car fobs, remotes and children’s toys, but they can badly injure or even kill a child if they are swallowed.

If a lithium coin cell battery gets stuck in a child’s food pipe, it can cause catastrophic internal bleeding and death within hours of being swallowed. This is not usually due to chemicals leaking from the battery but because the battery itself reacts with bodily fluids, such as mucus or saliva.

According to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, this creates a circuit to release a substance like caustic soda which is a strong alkali (the same chemical used to unblock drains!) that can burn through tissue. Even spare and “dead” coin batteries have the potential to release the alkali so should be treated just as carefully as new batteries.

Ingestion of batteries has long been recognised as a potential health hazard for children. Children are most at risk from one to four years, but younger and older children can also be a risk.

Although the existence of data on button battery ingestion needs much more information on the epidemiology of these serious injuries, studies show in recent years the number of debilitating or fatal battery ingestions has increased.

It is therefore vital that advocacy efforts are ongoing to broadcast the danger of battery buttons for small children and minimise the occurrence of these potentially fatal injuries.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), a national charity committed to reducing the number of children and young people who are killed, disabled or seriously injured as a result of accidents, is doing just that.

Today it will be launching a Button Battery Treasure Hunt, which encourages parents to search their own homes for button batteries - in products as well as spare and “dead” batteries - and put them out of reach of small children.

The charity is asking people to film their search for button batteries in their own home or what they found on their search, and post it on social media this week, using the hashtag #BatteryHunt. 

This poster gives you some ideas about what to look for: Button batteries: Where are yours? and more information can be found on their website.

There are many things we can do to reduce the risk of a child swallowing button batteries, however, most parents are unaware of the dangers or where button batteries are in their homes.

With recognition of the increased risk associated with button batteries, parents can be proactive in keeping their children safe. 

The advocacy efforts of charities like CAPT aim to result in much greater awareness within the medical and parental communities, which will hopefully decrease incidence of severe events.

We applaud their advocacy efforts and urge you to take part in their Button Battery Treasure Hunt, either by posting your own video and using the hashtag #BatteryHunt or sharing what others are posting and using the hashtag.