Button batteries

Button batteries, old or new, can cause serious injuries and even death if swallowed. The coin shaped batteries are easily caught in the oesophagus (food pipe), and when stuck can start to cause damage very quickly (within 2 hours). Batteries that become stuck in the nose or ears can also cause local burns. 

Button batteries come in different sizes, from 0.5cm to 3.2cm in width. Sometimes they are called ‘coin’ or lithium batteries.

When swallowed, the leftover electrical current in a button battery causes a chemical reaction in the body which can cause serious internal burns and bleeding. The batteries can also leak chemicals which can cause serious burns.

You will find button batteries in many small electrical products such as remote controls, toys, watches, hearing aids and torches. Often they are already installed in the products and toys.

If you know or think that your child has swallowed a button battery you must act immediately.

  • If your child is having any difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000) immediately
  • Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26
  • Take your child immediately to the nearest Emergency Department for assessment and treatment
  • Don’t try to make your child vomit
  • Don’t let your child eat or drink until you speak to the doctors.

Safety tips

  • Keep button batteries and all other batteries out of reach of children, in a locked cupboard at least 1.5 metres above the floor
  • Check that all remotes, toys and products containing button batteries have a battery compartment that is secured by a screw. If the battery compartment is not secured in with a screw, keep it out of reach of children
  • Buy new batteries that are in child-resistant packaging that needs to be opened with scissors. Once opened, keep the packet out of reach of children
  • Used batteries are dangerous and should not be thrown in the general rubbish. Keep old batteries out of reach until you can dispose of them safely through a recycling centre
  • To find a recycling centre, visit RecyclingNearYou.com.au

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