Typically, children find spare batteries in a drawer, get hold of ‘flat’ batteries that have fallen onto the floor or down the sofa, or take batteries from products like gaming headsets, car key fobs or slim audio visual remote controls.

The most common ones are 20mm diameter known as CR 2016, 2025 or 2032; but 16 and 23mm diameter batteries also exist.

Spare batteries

Products may come with a spare lithium coin battery in a small plastic bag.

When you buy replacement batteries, some are individually sealed in the pack and can only be removed with scissors. But with others, especially cheaper ones you buy online or in discount stores, once you open the pack, all the batteries come out and some may fall on the floor.

Spares often end up being stored in open containers or loose in a drawer.

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

‘Flat’ or ‘dead’ batteries

It’s not just fully charged lithium coin cell batteries that pose a risk.

Modern devices need a lot of power. When power levels drop, we think the battery is flat and discard it. But it can still have enough electrical charge left to badly injure a child.

Batteries in toys, gadgets and novelty items

Button batteries are used in an increasingly wide range of toys, novelty items, 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:

  • robot bug or fish toys
  • light-up head bands
  • gaming headsets
  • slim remote controls
  • car key fobs
  • key finders
  • thermometers
  • kitchen or bathroom scales
  • musical cards
  • novelty items like singing Santas and flashing wands
  • fitness trackers
  • fidget spinners with LED lights
  • 3D glasses
  • flameless candles, nightlights and tea lights
  • light-up fidget spinners
  • light-up yo-yos

Children’s toys

In the UK, batteries in children’s toys are covered by toy 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 toys bought online or from markets, discount stores or temporary shops may not follow toy safety regulations. For example, trading standards officers have issued warnings about light-up fidget spinners where the battery is easily accessible to children.

And remember that older children may still be able to open secure battery compartments.

How can I keep children safe?

  • Look round your home for lithium coin cell batteries - in products as well as spare and ‘flat’ batteries.
  • Keep all spare batteries in a sealed container in a high cupboard.
  • Keep products well out of children’s reach if the battery compartment isn’t secured.
  • Put ‘flat’ or ‘dead’ batteries out of children’s reach straight away and recycle them safely and as quickly as possible.
  • Avoid toys from markets, discount stores or temporary shops as they may not conform to safety regulations, and take care when buying online or from overseas.
  • Teach older children that button batteries are dangerous and not to play with them or give them to younger brothers and sisters.

What situations have accidents already happened in?

Little exploring fingers have found lithium coin cell batteries when:

  • A product is dropped and the battery falls out.
  • A battery is ‘flat’ and has been taken out and left on a worktop or table.
  • A packet of batteries is opened and the batteries spill out under the sofa or a cupboard.
  • Spare batteries are stored in an easy-to-reach drawer in the lounge or kitchen.
  • The button battery compartment of a toy or other device isn’t secured.

More information

Find out more about the risks button batteries pose and what to do in an emergency if you suspect your child has swallowed one.