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Beware of harmful effects of button batteries this Christmas Posted on 11 Dec 2018

Button batteries, especially big, powerful lithium coin cell batteries, can badly injure or kill a child if they are swallowed and get stuck in the throat or gullet.

Button batteries are small, round batteries that come in many different sizes and types. Lithium button batteries (often called ‘coin batteries’) are most dangerous as they are larger and more powerful. If they get stuck in a child’s throat, they can cause catastrophic internal bleeding and death within hours of being swallowed.

Typically, children get hold of ‘flat’ or spare button batteries that may have fallen onto the floor or down the sofa - or take batteries from everyday objects like kitchen scales, car key fobs or the slim audio visual remote controls.

So it’s important to keep spare or ‘dead’ button batteries and objects with easily accessible button batteries out of children’s reach, and to act fast if you think your child may have swallowed one.

Children most at risk are between 1 and 4 years, but younger and older children can also be at risk. Unfortunately, it may not be obvious that a button battery is stuck in a child’s throat. There are no clear specific symptoms associated with this.

The child may:

  • show signs of something stuck in the throat like coughing, gagging or drooling a lot

  • appear to have a stomach upset or a virus

  • point to their throat or tummy.

Other symptoms may include:

  • tiredness

  • loss of appetite

  • pain

  • nausea

But these sorts of symptoms vary. 


  • Take them straight to the A&E department at your local hospital or dial 999 for an ambulance.

  • Tell the doctor there that you think your child has swallowed a button battery.

  • If you have the battery packaging or the product powered by the battery, take it with you. This will help the doctor identify the type of battery and make treatment easier.

  • Do not let your child eat or drink.

  • Do not make them sick.

  • Trust your instincts and act fast – do not wait to see if any symptoms develop.

    For more information, visit the Child Accident Prevention Trust website.
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