The 10 signs your child has swallowed a deadly button battery – as mum warns of dangers in kids toys at Christmas

BUTTON batteries could kill your child if swallowed, doctors have warned.

Often kids find these deadly batteries in toys, in gadgets like remotes and those left in a drawer.

With Christmas fast approaching, parents have been cautioned against buying toys that don't meet UK safety regulations.

And in the event of your child does swallow a battery, knowing the signs will help get them urgent treatment.

What are the signs?

  1. There's only one thing specific to button battery ingestion and that's vomitting fresh, bright red blood. If your child does that you absolutely have to get them immediate medical help.

Other symptoms can include:

2. Suddenly developing cough, gag or drool a lot

3. Appearing to have a stomach upset or a virus

4. Being sick

5. Pointing to their throat or tummy

6. Having a pain in their tummy, chest or throat

7. Being tired or lethargic

8. Being quieter or more clingy than usual or otherwise ‘not themselves’

9. Losing their appetite or have a reduced appetite

10. Not wanting to eat solid food/be unable to eat solid food

Mums relive their horror

One mum has urged parents to be careful buying Christmas presents this year after her daughter was rushed into surgery when a battery rapidly burnt through her wind pipe and stomach.

Valerie Collins initially thought her four-year-old daughter had swallowed a 10p but immediately called 999 when she could not her from coughing.

Valerie's daughter, who she would like to keep anonymous, was taken to hospital and an X-ray confirmed that she had swallowed a button battery.

The youngster was taken to theatre at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) the same day to remove the battery.

It had badly eroded whilst in her food pipe and stomach.

Thankfully, Valerie's daughter has made a full recovery after the freak accident in summer, and had no lasting injuries.

Valerie said: “With Christmas approaching, I would urge everyone buying presents for children to be mindful about the toys you buy.

"Lots of children’s toys can be very easy to take the batteries out of and many toys come with lots of different parts.

“Be careful about what you leave lying around the house and if you have young and curious children, make sure you keep things like batteries and magnets out of their reach and stored in tight containers.”

Another mum has described watching her one-year-old daughter being brought round from a nine-day induced coma after having surgery to remove a battery.

Sabrina’s daughter Taylor-Rose had the battery lodged in her throat "for weeks".

Sabrina, who hasn't given her second name, said: "From the moment she started having symptoms, I knew something wasn’t right.

"She sounded like she had a frog in her throat, constantly clearing it, and she wouldn’t eat any solid foods."

Taylor-Rose’s symptoms didn’t clear up after a doctor gave her antibiotics.

It was after an emergency referral by her GP to a local hospital, that she had an x-ray, which clearly showed the battery.

She needed an operation to remove the battery through an incision in her neck, and then recovered on an intensive care ward.

What are the dangers?

Button batteries are small, round, silver-coloured batteries that look similar to a coin.

They are found in every day items around the house such as flameless candles, slim remote controls, car key fobs and toys like light-up fidget spinners.

Some types of batteries can get stuck in a child’s food pipe, where the battery reacts with saliva and creates a corrosive substance.

This can burn through the windpipe and into arteries, leading to catastrophic internal bleeding and even death.

Around two children die a year from swallowing lithium coin cell batteries, according to GOSH. Dozens more are treated in hospital.

What to do if your child has swallowed a button battery

  1. Go straight to A&E
  2. Tell a doctor
  3. Take the battery packaging or product with you
  4. Don't let them eat or drink
  5. Don't make them sick


If they survive, a child could be left with the inability to eat normally again, or the vocal cords could be so damaged they can't talk properly.

Joe Curry, senior consultant and specialist in neonatal and paediatric surgery at GOSH, has seen first-hand the life changing effect these items can have if they are swallowed by children. 

He said:  “An active button battery would burn through a steak in 30 minutes and this is the same with the oesophagus."

Watch out for magnets, too

Magnetic toys, which have become a new craze in schools, also pose similar dangers.

The tiny colourful magnetic balls can be moulded together to make different shapes or sculptures, but if swallowed, can rip holes within the intestine if they are trying to connect with each other.

Mr Curry said: “We had a case this year in our intensive care unit (ICU) where a child swallowed some magnetic balls and the attractive force caused perforation of the bowel.  

“This is really serious – swallowing a magnetic toy could cause peritonitis (an inflammation of the abdominal wall)," Mr Curry said.

This may lead to your child needing a temporary stoma – an opening in the tummy to allow for waste to come out – or they may even need part of their bowel removed.

If either a button battery or a magnet is swallowed, lengthy surgery would be required to save a child’s life.  

Mr Curry added: “The message is simple. Keep button batteries and magnets out of reach of young children and make sure toys which contain these items are only used under direct supervision.

“If toys have button batteries in, check the device regularly and make sure the battery is intact. Any time you remove a battery, make sure it is disposed of immediately.

“If you think your child has swallowed a button battery or a magnet, go straight to A&E. It is time critical to get a diagnosis and for the item to be removed.”

The Child Accident Prevention Trust is supporting GOSH’s calls to Christmas shoppers and are urging parents to be careful where they buy toys from.  

Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust said: “If you buy from an online marketplace, toys may not meet UK safety standards.

"That’s because online marketplaces are simply offering a shop window to sellers around the world and aren’t legally required to check if a toy is safe before allowing it to be sold. 

“We’ve seen toys with accessible button batteries that can burn through a child’s food pipe and powerful magnets that can burn through a child’s gut.

"If you can, head to reputable retailers or buy direct from the websites of well-known brand names.

"If you’re buying from an online marketplace, enter a reputable brand name when you search for the toy you want, to be sure it’s safe.” 

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