Button batteries, in particular big, powerful lithium coin cell batteries, can badly hurt or kill a small child if they swallow one and it gets stuck in their food pipe.

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.

No obvious symptoms

Unfortunately it is not obvious when a button battery is stuck in a child’s food pipe. There are no specific symptoms associated with this. The child may:

  • cough, gag or drool a lot
  • appear to have a stomach upset or a virus
  • be sick
  • point to their throat or tummy
  • have a pain in their tummy, chest or throat
  • be tired or lethargic
  • be quieter or more clingy than usual or otherwise ‘not themselves’
  • lose their appetite or have a reduced appetite
  • not want to eat solid food / be unable to eat solid food.

But these sorts of symptoms vary. Plus, the symptoms may fluctuate, with the pain increasing and then subsiding.

This is why it is really important to trust your instincts and act fast if you if you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery, taking them to A&E or dialling 999 for an ambulance.

One thing specific to button battery ingestion is vomiting fresh (bright red) blood. If the child does this then seek immediate medical help.

Honey

Studies in animals have shown that coating a button battery in honey can slow down the reaction of the battery inside the animal’s food pipe. This raises the question of whether to give a child honey if they accidentally swallow a button battery.

The answer isn’t straightforward. Here’s why:

  • It takes a lot of honey to slow the reaction – 2 spoonfuls every 10 minutes. Which may not be possible if your child is not willing to eat anything or is being sick.
  • Giving this much honey may make your child sick – which wouldn’t be helpful in this situation.
  • If your child needs general anaesthetic to remove the battery, it’s not ideal if they’ve had anything to eat or drink.
  • Honey shouldn’t be given to children under 1.
  • If you don’t have runny honey to hand, a few minutes delay trying to find honey and get your child to take it means delay getting to emergency doctors who can help.

So, the advice from doctors in the UK is, unless you have a long distance to the nearest A&E, getting to hospital as quickly as possible is the number one priority.

More information

Button Batteries

The risks

Find out more about why button batteries are so dangerous.

Button Batteries Fact Sheet - English

Top tips

Download and share our top tips for keeping children safe.

Button Batteries Poster: Where are yours?

Where are they?

Learn where you can find button batteries in your home.

Used batteries

Discover why ‘flat’ batteries are still unsafe and what should you do with them.

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