Button batteries are the small, round batteries you find in a growing number of toys and everyday objects like remote controls and car key fobs. They can be extremely dangerous for children if swallowed.

There are lots of different sizes and types of button batteries. Lithium button batteries are most dangerous as they are larger and more powerful. If they get stuck in a child’s throat, they can cause serious internal burns or even death within hours of being swallowed.

Why are button batteries dangerous?

Most button batteries pass through the body without a problem. But if a button battery, particularly a lithium button battery, gets stuck in the throat or gullet, energy from the battery can react with saliva to make the body create caustic soda. This is the same chemical used to unblock drains!

This can burn a hole through the throat and can lead to serious internal bleeding and death. The reaction can happen in as little as two hours.

In this film, George Asan talks about his daughter Francesca, who died after swallowing a button battery.

All button batteries are very dangerous if they get stuck in a child’s nose or ear.

No obvious symptoms

Unfortunately it may not be obvious that a button battery is stuck in a child’s throat. There are no specific symptoms associated with this. They may appear to have a stomach upset or a virus. Symptoms may include:

  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • pain
  • nausea

The lack of clear symptoms means it may not be obvious that your child has swallowed a button battery until it’s too late.

This is why it is important to be vigilant with spare button batteries in the home and the products that contain them.


IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR CHILD HAS SWALLOWED A BUTTON BATTERY, ACT FAST

  • Take them straight to the A&E department at your local hospital or dial 999 for an ambulance
  • Tell the doctor there that you think your child has swallowed a button battery.
  • If you have the battery packaging or the product powered by the battery, take it with you. This will help the doctor identify the type of battery and make treatment easier.
  • Do not let your child eat or drink.
  • Do not make them sick.
  • Trust your instincts and act fast – do not wait to see if any symptoms develop.

"It turns out this is one of the most damaging and dangerous things that my beautiful boy could have ever swallowed. They cause deep and extremely fast corrosion burns into soft human tissue. It does not get much worse than this.” 


Where can you find button batteries?

Button batteries are used in an increasingly wide range of toys, gadgets and other everyday objects you’ll find around the house. Lots of these objects have buttons and surfaces that young children love to explore and play with. Many are brightly coloured or otherwise appealing to children. These include:

  • fidget spinners with LED lights
  • small remote controls
  • car key fobs
  • calculators
  • children’s thermometers
  • digital scales
  • musical cards
  • novelty toys
  • watches
  • 3D glasses
  • hearing aids
  • flameless candles and nightlights

Children’s toys

Batteries in children’s toys are covered by safety regulations. They should either be enclosed by a screw and a secure compartment or need two independent or simultaneous movements to open the battery compartment. But remember that older children may still be able to open secure battery compartments.

Toys bought online or from markets, discount stores or temporary shops may not follow the appropriate safety regulations. For example, trading standards officers have issued warnings about light-up fidget spinners where the battery is easily accessible to children.

Who is at risk?

Babies and toddlers are at particular risk as they explore the world by putting things in their mouths. Toddlers are naturally inquisitive and can be determined to explore and get into things.

It’s not just babies and toddlers who are at risk from button batteries. Older children can be fascinated by them too. In some cases, they may deliberately put one of these batteries in their mouth or on their tongue to experience the sensation of the electrical charge.

How can I keep children safe?

  • Keep all spare batteries out of children’s reach and sight, ideally in a high-up, lockable cupboard.
  • Keep products with batteries well out of reach if the battery compartment isn’t secured with a screw.
  • Avoid toys from markets, discount stores or temporary shops as they may not conform to safety regulations and take care when buying online
  • Teach older children that button batteries are dangerous and not to play with them or give them to younger brothers and sisters.
  • Remember that even used batteries can be dangerous, so recycle them safely.

Please help us spread the word

  • Please share this page using the buttons below.
  • If you work with parents, our button battery safety pack, with a poster and 100 flyers, can help you spread the word.
  • If you feel passionate about keeping children safe, please make a donation to fund our future work.

More information

The website of the British and Irish Portable Battery Association (BIPBA) has advice on the risks for parents and medical professionals - http://buttonbatterysafety.com.

On 1 June 2017, we launched a collaboration with BIPBA to raise awareness of button battery safety among parents and professionals. Watch out for more details of our joint information campaign.