PARENTS are being warned to take extra care with the small batteries found in electronic devices following an increasing number of emergency hospital admissions.
In the last year, 15 children were taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s emergency department after swallowing batteries.
A hospital spokeswoman said: “Some parents may be unaware of the particular risks posed by the small round batteries, known as button batteries, which are common in a variety of gadgets such as watches, car keys, night lights, musical greeting cards, remote controls and calculators.”
If swallowed, button batteries can burn into a child’s throat and harm vital organs, causing permanent damage or death.
This is because the electrical current from the battery reacts with the moisture from the body to create sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda – a chemical so powerful it is used as drain cleaner.
Deirdre O’Donnell, an emergency consultant at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, said: “It is so important that parents do everything they can to keep button batteries away from small children.
“If somehow your child does swallow a button battery, take them to your nearest A&E immediately.
“While most of these will pass through your child’s gut uneventfully, it is possible that doctors may have to operate on your child, so get to the hospital promptly and make sure your child does not have anything to eat or drink.”
If the battery has passed to the stomach, doctors will carry out regular checks to make sure it passes from the body safely.
However if it becomes stuck in the oesophagus – the tube running from the throat to the stomach – then emergency surgery is necessary.
Parents are advised to:
Keep button batteries locked in a safe place.
Dispose of old batteries safely (used up batteries are still a risk)
Not leave small children alone with electronic equipment.