A warning has been issued to parents after five-year-old Eva McCafferty from Ballymoney swallowed a button battery when she was 14 months - and was admitted to hospital when it eroded her oesophagus.
The toddler, who required emergency surgery to remove the battery, and spent a prolonged time in intensive care.
Her mother Kathleen said: “We want to highlight the dangers to other families, as we were not aware of how devastating the effects of swallowing one of these batteries could be. We don’t want any other children to have to go through what Eva did.”
Family safety charity RoSPA has teamed up with the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (RBHSC), the Public Health Agency (PHA) and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in a campaign to warn parents, carers and health professionals in Northern Ireland of this worrying trend.
Dr Julie-Ann Maney, of the #BelfastTrust RCPCH and RBHSC, said: “Although small, button batteries pose a very real danger to children if swallowed. The sleek shape and size makes them attractive to small inquisitive hands and sadly, the consequences of one of these being swallowed can be severely life-changing and sometimes even fatal.”
“As a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine and working in the emergency department of The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, I have seen increasing numbers of children presenting with breathing difficulties and vomiting blood as a result of swallowing one of these batteries. This can be fatal. Once the battery has been removed, there are still silent dangers and long-term health problems.”
“I urge all parents, friends and family members to make sure that any casing around batteries in toys and electrical devices are secure before giving them to a child. And if in doubt, don’t take the risk – a child’s life could depend on it.”
Young children are naturally inquisitive, and explore the world in part by putting things in their mouths.
Ita McErlean, RoSPA Northern Ireland’s home safety manager, said: “As more and more electronic items are introduced into the family home, the potential for children to swallow button batteries increases, and this can lead to choking or poisoning.”
Hilary Johnston, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager said that “The Public Health Agency is delighted to be working with RoSPA and others to raise awareness of the risks associated with button cell batteries.”
What precautions can I take to protect my child?
• Make sure that toys and other products using button cell
batteries, such as small electronic devices, have lockable
battery compartments. This should mean that they are safe
for children to use as the batteries are locked away
• Be extra vigilant with items including musical greeting cards,
frameless candles and remote controls as they do not have
lockable compartments. RoSPA advises that children should
not be allowed to have access to these products if the
battery compartment is not secure.
• It is a good idea to ensure that spare batteries are locked
away, and used batteries are disposed of correctly.
What should I do if my child swallows a button cell battery?
If your child swallows a button cell battery, seek medical advice immediately. Remember that the saliva in their body will react with the battery and so time is very much of the essence in these cases.
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