13 Aug 2022

Public Health Agency issue button cell battery danger warning ahead of Christmas

As Christmas approaches, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is warning Derry parents and guardians of the danger of lithium button cell batteries. Button cell batteries are used to power many children’s toys, but are highly dangerous if accidentally swallowed. The festive period can typically see a rise in the number of these small, button-shaped batteries introduced to the home as they are contained in toys, musical Christmas cards, remote controls and a host of other electronic items. Hilary Johnston, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager at the PHA, said: “Young children are naturally inquisitive, and explore the world in part by putting things in their mouths. “As new and interesting electronic items are introduced into the family home, the potential for children to swallow button cell batteries increases, and this can lead to choking, burning or poisoning. “If undetected, button cell batteries can do serious damage to the gastrointestinal system. Lithium batteries react with saliva, setting up an electrical current resulting in a build-up of caustic soda, which will burn through the oesophagus and major blood vessels. “We want parents, grandparents, childminders and carers to be aware of the danger and understand that these seemingly harmless little batteries can cause serious injury to children. Treat them the same way you would any poisonous substance – out of reach and out of sight.” There are a few simple things that can be done to protect young children from the dangers of button cell batteries: battery compartments should be checked to make sure they can’t be opened or broken easily. parents need to ensure that battery compartments are screwed shut when possible. keep spare batteries in a safe place out of reach of children. Dr Julie-Ann Maney, Consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, said: “Although small, button cell batteries pose a very real danger to children if swallowed. The sleek shape and size makes them attractive to small inquisitive hands and sadly, the consequences of one of these being swallowed can be severely life-changing and sometimes even fatal. “As a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine and working in the emergency department of The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, I have seen increasing numbers of children presenting with breathing difficulties and vomiting blood as a result of swallowing one of these batteries. This can be fatal. Once the battery has been removed, there are still silent dangers and long-term health problems. “I urge all parents, friends and family members to make sure that any casing around batteries in toys and electrical devices are secure before giving them to a child. And if in doubt, don’t take the risk – a child’s life could depend on it.”

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