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UK’s top paediatric doctors warn of devastating impact of button batteries– A successful campaign!

Paediatric Surgeon, Kate Cross
In September last year doctors at leading children’s hospitals in the UK joined together to raise awareness of the dangers of button batteries, after seeing a sharp rise in the number of children suffering severe injuries after swallowing them.

Great Ormond Street Hospital alone had seen a 60% increase in the number of children admitted from across of the UK after accidentally swallowing button batteries over 2016. Many of these children have suffered internal burns that have left holes in their internal organs. Around one child a month was being admitted compared to one a year, five years ago.

Experts at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Sheffield Children’s Hospital, highlighted the devastating impact that button batteries can have on the lives of children and families, the warning signs of to look out for and the urgent action to take if you believe your child has swallowed a battery. The recommendation was that button batteries are treated with the same caution as medicines, bleaches, and poisons in the home.

The campaign was covered extensively on BBC News, television and radio including BBC Online:, BBC Radio Four Today Programme, BBC Radio Two, Jeremy Vine Show and the BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire Programme as well as in the printed press and on and

Since this awareness program there has been a dramatic decrease in children presenting to Great Ormond Street with swallowed button batteries. This is despite the December holiday season where many new toys and gadgets contain the batteries.

This raising of awareness has been a major success to date but ongoing vigilance is needed to keep up the good work and keep children safe.

Button batteries are found in lots of domestic items that we all use every day and it’s easy to forget how powerful they are and how dangerous they can be. We can all help keep our families safer by storing batteries in secure places before and after they’re used, preventing more children and families having to go through the traumatic experience of these serious injuries.

Key Points:

  • Button batteries are found in household items including watches and clocks, bathroom scales, toys, television remote controls and bicycle lights. Even used batteries, cause significant injuries.
  • In under 4 hours, a button batteries swallowed by a child can cause life threatening injuries.
  • Warning signs that a child has swallowed a button battery include excess dribbling or trouble swallowing, vomiting, coughing, choking, and unexplained chest infections.
  • It’s vital to get a child emergency medical care straight away if you think they could have swallowed a button battery. Go straight to A&E, do not try to make your child vomit and ensure they have nothing to eat or drink
  • All batteries including dead batteries should be stored safely and securely out of the reach of children
An information sheet for families is available on the GOSH website.

Kate Cross
Consultant Neonatal and Paediatric Surgeon
Specialty Lead for Specialist Neonatal and Paediatric Surgery
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

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