Taking care with lithium batteries around kids
With Christmas toys now running out of steam and probably needing a battery change, there are a few things to consider when using and changing lithium batteries.
Lithium batteries (also known as button batteries) vary in sizes but are often very small and if accessible, young children can easily place them in their mouths.
Ingesting these batteries can lead to choking or soft tissue burns and perforation of the oesophagus.
Severe alkali burns occur when a battery is lodged in one position for more than an hour. An electrical current, triggered by the moist environment, generates alkali (sodium hydroxide) on one side of the battery. Deep progressive tissue damage can result. Even spent batteries can have enough residual charge to cause damage. These burns can also cause fatal internal bleeding.
In Queensland alone, on average, up to three children are rushed to emergency departments every day after accidentally swallowing foreign objects such as batteries.
In November 2010, a one year old Queensland boy suffered serious injuries after swallowing a small button battery which became stuck in his voice box. Doctors have advised that the child will have to undergo surgery every six to twelve months to stretch his oesophagus.
A study in the United States on batteries ingested by children revealed that in 62% of ingestion cases, the children had removed batteries from household electronics, while 24% of the cases involved children swallowing loose batteries. Most ingestion cases involved 20 mm batteries from remote controls around the home.
Along with popular toys, remote contols, hearing aids, musical greeting cards and digital thermometers are some of the most common products that use lithium batteries.
Here are some tips for you to consider when buying or using these products:
- Make sure there are no loose batteries within any child’s reach.
- If you’re changing a button battery, do it on a surface out of reach of children.
- If you have a device that uses this type of battery, make sure the battery device on the cover is secure so your child can’t remove it.
- Store button batteries like you would any medication—out of reach of your children.
- Don't throw used lithium batteries in the bin. Keep them safely out of reach of children before disposing them via a safe environment disposal system. Ask your local council for the nearest location to dispose your batteries safely.
- If you’re suspicious that your child has swallowed a button battery, or has placed one in his/her nose, seek medical attention immediately. Do not give any food or water.