Every week in Australia, 20 children are taken to hospital suspected of swallowing a button battery.
Swallowing a button battery, also known as a coin battery, can cause serious internal burns or death.
Inserting one of these batteries into an ear or nose can cause significant injury in as little as 2 hours.
Their shiny appearance and size—from 5 to 32mm in diameter—make button batteries attractive to small children.
They are commonly found in products designed for children and power more personal and household devices than you might think, including:
- toys, learning equipment, resources and craft materials
- medical devices, such as thermometers, hearing aids and glucometers
- timers, digital scales, calculators, watches and fitness devices
- cameras, clocks, car keys, torches and reading lights
- remote controls, such as for whiteboards, TVs, fans, air conditioners, blinds, security gates and garage doors
- novelty items, such as flashing books, jewellery, hair clips/bands, clothing, shoes and bags and musical greeting cards
- decorations, such as fairy lights, Christmas ornaments and flameless candles.
Protect children from harm posed by button batteries
Under the National Law, approved providers must take all reasonable precautions to protect children from harm and from hazards likely to cause injury.
The following steps may assist your service enhance its policy and procedure for providing a child safe environment with respect to the risks posed by button batteries.
Reduce the number of products powered by button batteries
- Avoid buying products powered by button batteries.
- Replace products powered by button batteries with alternative items which are rechargeable or powered by cylinder batteries or the sun.
- Restrict children and families from bringing items containing button batteries (except for required medical aids) onto your premises. Let families know about this restriction when they enrol and remind them regularly throughout their attendance. Proactively check for compliance.
Identify which products have button batteries
- Label products with button batteries 'Keep out of reach of children'.
- Keep a register of products powered by button batteries.
- Regularly check the service for any unregistered button batteries. Keep records of these safety checks.
Buy safe products
- If you must buy a product powered by button batteries, only buy products that:
- require a screwdriver or tool to open the battery compartment
- are secured with a child-resistant locking mechanism; or
- require 2 independent and simultaneous movements to access the batteries.
- Buy new button batteries in child-resistant packaging—that is, with packaging that needs to be opened with scissors.
- Button battery products should be robust enough to be dropped without breaking.
Safely store spare button batteries
- Keep spare batteries in a locked cupboard, drawer or filling cabinet that is out of reach of children.
Dispose of flat or unused batteries correctly
- Spent or flat batteries remain dangerous, so remove them safely from your centre.
- Cover batteries in sticky tape, place in a tied plastic bag and take to a local recycling collection point such as your local council (council websites often list additional disposal places), Planet Ark, Aldi supermarkets or Battery World.
Teach children, families and colleagues about the dangers
- Incorporate button battery safety concepts in the curriculum.
- Outline the danger of button batteries to families. Share the following information:
- Teach children not to touch/handle button batteries and to alert an adult (e.g. parent, relative or educator) if and when they see one.
- Outline your service’s button battery restrictions to families when they enrol and remind them regularly throughout their attendance.
- Outline the danger of button batteries in your family and team handbooks.
Recognise the signs and symptoms of button battery ingestion
- Gagging or choking
- Chest pain (may present as grunting)
- Coughing or noisy breathing
- Unexplained vomiting or food refusal
- Bleeding from gut—black/red vomit/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
What to do if you suspect a child has swallowed something poisonous
- Phone the Poisons Information Centre immediately on
13 11 26 for 24/7 fast, expert advice. Prompt action is critical. Do not wait for symptoms to develop.
- If it is a life-threatening emergency, phone Triple-O.
- Do not let the child eat or drink.
- Do not induce vomiting.