Button batteries: 1 - 2 years

How big a problem is it?

Each year approximately 20 children are taken to the Starship Emergency Department because of button battery-related injuries, or have been suspected of swallowing one. As well as being a choking hazard, they can get stuck between the throat and stomach and burn a hole in as little as two hours. This can cause serious illness, lifelong disability or death. It may be difficult to know if a child has swallowed a button-battery or not. Children will continue to breathe and act normally or caregivers may just think they have a cold or the flu.

Who does it affect?

Children at this 1-2 age group are among the most at risk, because they are inquisitive and love to take things apart and put things in their mouths. But all ages of children up to around the age of six are at risk. There have been instances of children putting batteries up their noses or in their ears. They pose a serious risk to young children and must be removed by doctors. There are several key ways to reduce the risk of a button battery injury. From 2010 till 2013, the National Poisons Centre received 175 calls regarding children under 6 years swallowing or inserting batteries in their nose and ears.

Top Tips

  • Search the home and wherever a child is likely to go, for items that may have button batteries and place them out of reach and sight. As an extra precaution put some duct tape over the TV controller and keep loose batteries locked away.

  • Don’t forget to have a think about any items around the home that already have batteries installed, such as singing greeting cards, watches, thermometers, decorations and flashing jewellery. These are often overlooked. 

  • Before arriving at the hospital, children over 1 year who have swallowed a button battery within the past 12 hours may be given 10ml of honey every 10 minutes (up to 6 doses).

    • (10mL is approximately 2 teaspoons). Proceed to the Emergency Department immediately. Do not delay.

  • Share these tips with caregivers, whānau and friends: it could save a child’s life.

First Aid

  • If you think your child has swallowed a battery, go to the nearest hospital emergency room and get medical treatment straight away. 

  • Honey can significantly reduce burn injuries from swallowing button batteries. If you have some available, give your child 2 teaspoons before heading to the hospital, as long as they are at least a year old and there is no obvious chest pain or fever.

  • Two teaspoons can be given every 10 minutes up to 6 doses .

  • Time is critical, so children suspected of swallowing a battery must get to an emergency department immediately.

  • It’s best not to induce vomiting or have your child eat or drink anything other than honey as mentioned above, until a doctor has seen them. 

  • If you have the identification number of the battery (found on the battery’s pack), take it with you to hospital. This could be really helpful to the medical team. 

  • Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what to do. 


Links to other Battery Controlled videos:

Links to Safekids’ resources

Download Button Battery reference card

Reference Card Sources

Button Battery Injury Prevention Resources

Links to other organisations’ information

The Battery Controlled Website