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Medical Officer of Health urges people to be aware of button battery safety

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The recent hospitalisation of a nine-month Tauranga baby due to injuries from swallowing a button battery has led to the MidCentral Medical Officer of Health, Rob Weir, calling for parents and caregivers to make sure their children can’t access these batteries.

Grandparents also need to be aware of the danger posed by button batteries. 

Button batteries are coin-sized batteries common in a wide variety of devices including toys, remote controls, watches, torches/laser lights, singing Christmas cards, MP3 speakers, hearing aids, bathroom scales and car keys.

Dr Weir said: “The biggest danger is when people don't realise a child has swallowed one of the button batteries, which tend to lodge in childrens' throat, nose, or ear canal.  It is easy to simply think a child is coming down with something, because the symptoms include vomiting, coughing, abdominal pain and fever. 

“Once a battery is stuck, damage can start to occur after one to two hours. Saliva immediately triggers an electrical current, causing a chemical reaction that begins to burn through tissue. The battery can erode through into vital organs, causing catastrophic damage and sometimes death.’

To avoid these problems, Dr Weir says it is important for caregivers of small children to:
• SEARCH your home, and any place your child goes, for gadgets that may contain button batteries.
• SECURE button battery-controlled devices out of sight and reach of babies and small children, and keep loose batteries locked away.
• SHARE this lifesaving information with caregivers, friends, family and whanau.
• GET HELP FAST if you suspect a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery. Take the child to a hospital emergency department immediately.
While making your house safe for button safety also make sure you remove any small items that could be a choking hazard to a young baby.
The SafeKids website: has more information about the dangers of button batteries.  
Contact: Communications Unit (06) 350-8945

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