Child Safety Series: Batteries

Each month this series will provide important facts and tips surrounding child safety in an effort to support parents and caregivers as they attempt to reduce risks and create the safest environment possible for the children in their lives. 

Curiosity and kids go together like Macaroni and Cheese. Regardless of how recently you skimmed a room for risky items before a child enters, it seems as though they have a knack for finding the one threat in the room. It may surprise you that one of the most deadly safety hazards for children is batteries, which can be found in more than dozens of household items, including children’s toys. Before you toss every battery-operated item you own in the trash, let’s talk about how to understand the risk, avoid incidents, and what to do in the unlikely event something does go wrong. 

Understanding the Dangers of Household Batteries

The real risks that batteries pose to children come into play when batteries are either swallowed or cause external burns.  

If swallowed, batteries can cause a severe choking hazard and can also create mayhem once inside. For burns, this is typically the result of a rechargeable battery-operated device that was irresponsibly placed during charging, allowing it to overheat. On the other hand, burns can happen when something is spilt on the charging battery and it is not turned off immediately. In general, all batteries can pose both of these threats, with some being more severe than others. 

Among all battery-related injuries to children, button batteries, such as those used in watches, key fobs, thermometers, and singing greeting cards constitute the highest risk. Once swallowed, the child’s saliva mixed with the battery creates an electrical current which severely burns the esophagus in a short amount of time, causing serious damage. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, “Each year in the United States, more than 2,800 kids are treated in emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries. That’s one child every three hours.” 

Reducing Risk of Battery Related Incidents

Inspect All Battery-Operated Toys and Electronics

While most children’s battery-powered toys are perfectly safe, it’s still important to inspect the toy for any issues, from easily opened battery compartments to any spills that could cause damage to the batteries. Making sure that anything needing a charge doesn’t get too hot is imperative to avoid burns or even the rare occurrence of exploding devices. 

Make a Routine When Adding/Replacing Batteries

As a general rule, when purchasing batteries for a new toy or other electronic devices, make a habit of opening the package someplace out of reach of little hands. Additionally, count how many batteries came in the package you opened, and how many old ones you may be removing from a device. This will help keep you aware if something goes missing.  

Creating Safe Storage for Batteries

Have a specific container to store all loose batteries, and make sure that it includes a lid or other type of closure. This should, of course, be kept somewhere out of sight of curious kids. Make sure any electronics containing batteries are stored in their devices properly with screws or snaps in place. When devices have an opening that may be simple for small hands to open, consider adding a piece of duct tape to enforce the closure. 

Disposing of Batteries Safely

Not all batteries can be disposed of equally, as lithium-ion batteries, for example, need to be recycled responsibly to avoid the risk of injury and environmental issues. 

Also, never place large quantities of used batteries together to throw away, as this can also cause a dangerous situation. 

Taking Action If a Battery-Related Injury Occurs

Despite every avoidance, sometimes, unfortunate accidents happen. If you notice a missing battery in proximity to your little one or suspect he or she may have swallowed it, look out for the following symptoms, according to 

  • Coughing
  • Excessive Drooling 
  • Discomfort
  • Decreased eating or drinking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarse voice
  • Vomiting

Due to the severity of risk associated with ingesting batteries (especially a lithium or coin battery), if you are unsure but have a concern, don’t wait to head to your nearest emergency room. 

Helpful Resources to Learn More


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