News

Button batteries pose ‘serious risk’ to children

Safeguarding expert says parents should be warned of damage the batteries can cause if swallowed, after sharp rise in incidents
Button batteries

Button batteries pose a serious risk to children if swallowed, and families should be warned, a nurse academic has said.

London South Bank University childrens nurse and lecturer in safeguarding and health promotion Jessie McCulloch has spoken out about the dangers, following reports of a sharp rise in the number of incidents involving injury caused by the small circular batteries.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London recently reported a 60% increase in the number of children admitted after swallowing the batteries.

Severe injury

If swallowed, they can burn through soft tissue, affect a childs ability to breathe, speak or eat, and can even cause death.

According to GOSH, one child a month is being admitted to the hospital after swallowing a button battery, compared with one child

Button batteries pose a ‘serious risk’ to children if swallowed, and families should be warned, a nurse academic has said.


If swallowed, button batteries can burn through soft tissue and cause severe injury. Picture: iStock.

London South Bank University children’s nurse and lecturer in safeguarding and health promotion Jessie McCulloch has spoken out about the dangers, following reports of a sharp rise in the number of incidents involving injury caused by the small circular batteries.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London recently reported a 60% increase in the number of children admitted after swallowing the batteries.

Severe injury

If swallowed, they can burn through soft tissue, affect a child’s ability to breathe, speak or eat, and can even cause death.

According to GOSH, one child a month is being admitted to the hospital after swallowing a button battery, compared with one child a year 5 years ago.

Ms McCulloch said: ‘So many electronic devices use these button batteries now, and I don’t think parents are aware just how easily they can be removed.

‘People are more willing to let children play with these devices than in the past, and the level of supervision isn’t as great as it used to be.’

Home safety advice

In 2011, as part of the Health Visitor Implementation Programme, local authorities committed to providing five health visits for every new baby, during which home safety advice is mandatory.

However, the commitment period that councils signed up to is now expiring across the country.

Ms McCulloch, who is also a health visitor, said: ‘If vital advice does not continue to be given out, there is a serious risk incidents such as these will rise even further.’

A  2013 US academic paper advised all nurses to educate children and families on safety related to button batteries.

One year later, engineers created a special coating for the batteries, which conducts electricity only when squeezed, for example when it is in a spring-loaded compartment.

However, the technology has yet to be introduced by manufacturers in the UK.


Further information

NHS England’s Health Visiting Programme

Case study from GOSH on button battery danger

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