From the time a child swallows a button battery they are ‘walking dead’

by | Feb 5, 2021 | News and Media

National Media release                                             

Embargoed until 23 October 2020

Following the death of a 3rd child in Australia due to an ingested button battery, Kidsafe are issuing an urgent reminder to everyone to be Button Battery Aware.

As the number of babies, toddlers and older children hospitalised after swallowing button batteries continues to rise, Kidsafe has issued a fresh warning that button batteries can inflict catastrophic injury and kill.

In Australia, more than one child a month sustains a time critical or severe injury related to swallowing or inserting (into nose or ears) a button battery, with children under five years of age proving to be at greatest risk.

These little batteries present a serious danger to children and can kill if not found in time. If swallowed, a fully charged large (3V) button battery can erode through the oesophagus in as little as two hours. Even when the battery has been removed, the chemical burn can continue to erode through tissue.

Most severe injuries and deaths are associated with ‘occult ingestions’ where a child swallows a button battery but fails to report this to parents/carers. Though this is more common with pre- verbal and non-verbal children, it also occurs in older children who fear there may be repercussions or may not think to mention it.

Dr Ruth Barker Emergency Paediatrician and Kidsafe Qld President says “These children are ‘walking dead’ from the moment they swallow the battery, because they do not look unwell. Although the parents notice something is not quite right, no-one can put their finger on it. When the diagnosis is revealed, it can be too late. The aftermath of realizing what everyone had been missing is devastating.”

Importantly, even a battery that no longer has enough charge to power your product, may still have the capacity to kill. A large 3V lithium battery has a shelf life of 10 years.

For 40 years companies have been deploying these ‘landmines’ into our homes with no warnings, unsecured battery compartments and no information on what to do if a child swallows or inserts one.

Whilst the mainstream toy industry has been diligent about this issue; making battery compartments child resistant and their products durable and impact resistant; families are increasingly exposed to a deluge of cheap, low quality products across a staggering range of suppliers. The onus is on industry to come up with better and safer solutions to this worldwide killer.

In Australia, Kidsafe is looking forward to world-first legislation, with the ACCC looking at a mandatory safety standard for all products containing button batteries.

In order to minimise the risk of a child ingesting/ inserting a button battery, Kidsafe has developed a list of tips for parents, care givers and physicians:

Be Button Battery Aware:

Reduce the number of products in your environment that are powered by button batteries. Although injury can still occur with cylindrical batteries this is much less common. Can you source products with enclosed batteries (USB rechargeable) or powered by alternative batteries or power sources?

Secure button batteries and the products they power. Only purchase button batteries in child resistant packaging. Products need to be durable and the battery compartments child resistant. If dropped or the compartment prised open will the battery be released?

Know which products in your home have button batteries. Regularly check that the battery   is still secured in the child-resistant compartment. Where you can, keep them out of reach of small children (though beware climbers!)

Dispose of spent and unused batteries immediately and safely – ‘flat’ batteries are still dangerous. Tape them both sides with sticky tape as they come out of the product. This reduces fire risk if you are storing them for recycling and makes them a tricky mouthful to swallow. Kids can be like vultures waiting to pounce!

Recognise the signs and symptoms of occult ingestiongagging, drooling, unable to eat properly, noisy breathing, chest pain (grunting) vomiting or passing black or red blood.

Respond immediately if you suspect someone has swallowed or inserted a button battery. Not every health facility has the capacity to assess or manage a button battery injury, so call the Poisons Information Centre first on 13 11 26 (24/7) for fast expert advice.

Warn others about the dangers of button batteries.


Susan Teerds Kidsafe Qld – 0411104833, Dr Ruth Barker – 0402106749

Kidsafe VIC, Jason Chambers – 0431 447 982 

Kidsafe SA, Holly Fitzgerald – 0404 001 487 

Kidsafe WA, Scott Phillips – 0400 828 011

Kidsafe TAS Jenny Branch-Allen – 0417 381 721 

Kidsafe NSW, Christine Erskine – 0427 714 749 

Kidsafe ACT, Jes Chalmers – 0411 433 965

Consumer advocate CHOICE is also available for comment – email or phone 0430 172 669

ACNC Registered Charity logo

Support Kidsafe Qld – Donate Today

We need your help to continue our important work in reducing the number of accidents and unintentional injuries that put children in QLD hospitals.

With your help, Kidsafe Qld can save children’s lives and reduce the pain and suffering from preventable injuries.