Button batteries: Birth to 11 months

How big a problem is it?

Button batteries are a real danger to children, so it's important that you keep all devices that contain them out of reach. As well as being a choking hazard they can get stuck in your child’s throat and burn a hole in as little as two hours causing serious illness or death. When a coin-sized lithium button battery gets stuck in a child’s throat, the saliva triggers an electrical current that can severely burn the oesophagus in as little as two hours. You may not realise anything is wrong at first. They’ll continue to breathe and act normally and if there is any indication, you may just think they have a cold or the flu. Once burning begins, damage can continue even after the battery is removed.

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.

Who does it affect?

Children under six years and babies are most at risk, because they are inquisitive and love to take things apart and put things in their mouths. Here is a summary of some of the ways you can reduce the risk of a button battery injury.

Top Tips

  • Search your 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’s battery cavity lid and keep loose batteries locked away.

  • Don’t forget to have a think about any items around your home that already have batteries fitted or installed, such as singing greeting cards, watches, thermometers, decorations and flashing jewellery. These are often overlooked and should be secured away from children under six years of age. 

  • Share these tips with caregivers, your 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. 

  • 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

New Zealand Product Safety Policy Standard