19 July 2024

Kiwis warned over button battery dangers for children

Ahead of the Christmas holidays, New Zealand government has issued a safety alert, warning of the dangers posed by button batteries and Kiwi families are being urged to check for button batteries when they’re doing their festival shopping.

Button batteries are widely used in musical greeting cards, toys, remote controls, watches, flameless candles and key fobs. These are small, shiny, smooth and, to many babies and toddlers, irresistible. If a child swallows, they can result in serious — potentially life-threatening — injury to a child. Even if a child inserts a button battery into their nose or ears, it can quickly burn through tissue causing serious injury or death.

They’ve been identified as a high-risk product by MBIE, especially for the harm they can cause to children and their families.

Button cells are high-risk for children
Button batteries are high-risk for children

Ian Caplin from MBIE’s Consumer Protection team says people need to be especially mindful of the dangers button batteries can pose when they’re purchasing presents and decorations at this time of year.

“The National Poisons Centre receives on average 41 calls a year related to button batteries being swallowed or stuck in ears or nose (between 2019-21)”.

Children under five are particularly vulnerable, says Ian.

“Knowing if button batteries are in your home and knowing where they are is incredibly important. Not only could they be in gifts children may get at Christmas, but also in everyday items like kitchen scales or hearing aids.

“Over 60 per cent of the incidents involve button batteries coming loose from inside these sorts of items, with a further 29 per cent coming from batteries that weren’t disposed of or stored safely.”

MBIE, working with Safekids Aotearoa is encouraging New Zealanders to check and see where button batteries are in their home and to keep them out of reach of children.

If you can, change the products that have these batteries to ones that use other types of batteries, says Ian.

“For those products you can’t change, make sure the battery compartment cannot be opened by a young child or when dropped.

“When you change the batteries, make sure the used ones are disposed of somewhere out of reach of children, and any spare ones are kept secure and away from children.

“Finally, when Christmas is all over and you’re packing up the decorations for another year, take a quick look to see if there aren’t any tiny button batteries left behind in amongst all the left-over wrapping paper.”

If you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery, do not delay and get them to an emergency department immediately.

Honey can significantly reduce burn injuries from swallowing button batteries so, if honey is readily available, give them 2 teaspoons before heading to the hospital, as long as they are at least a year old and there is no obvious chest pain or fever. You can give 2 teaspoons every 10 minutes, up to 6 doses.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what to do.

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