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Parents warned of ‘potentially lethal’ button batteries on Christmas toys

The mother of a two-year-old Sheffield girl who nearly died after swallowing one has spoken of the trauma.

NHS England has advised parents to make sure that small, flat batteries are kept away from children (Andrew Matthews/PA)
NHS England has advised parents to make sure that small, flat batteries are kept away from children (Andrew Matthews/PA)

By Henry Clare, PA

Parents have been warned about the danger of “potentially lethal” button batteries on Christmas toys after a girl who swallowed one almost died.

NHS England has advised parents to make sure that the small, flat batteries – which can be found in toys, festive lights, and musical Christmas cards – are kept away from children.

It comes months after a two-year-old girl, Elsie-Rose, from Sheffield, nearly died after swallowing one.

The girl’s mother was told to give her daughter “one last kiss” amid fears the youngster may not pull through, NHS England said.

But doctors at Sheffield Children’s Hospital were able to operate and remove the battery from her throat, the body added.

For toddlers, button batteries can look like sweets and are found in anything from toys, musical Christmas cards and festive decorations, so we want to ensure parents are aware of the dangers of these potentially lethal batteries Professor Stephen Powis

The small batteries are capable of burning through a child’s throat if accidentally swallowed, meaning that youngsters opening Christmas presents are potentially at risk.

NHS England medical director, Professor Stephen Powis said: “For toddlers, button batteries can look like sweets and are found in anything from toys, musical Christmas cards and festive decorations, so we want to ensure parents are aware of the dangers of these potentially lethal batteries.

“The best way to protect children is simply by keeping batteries out of reach for children and ensure that any toys that require the batteries are firmly locked into the battery compartment.

“If you think your child may have swallowed a battery, urgently take them to A&E, and our incredible NHS staff – thousands of whom will be on shift on wards on Christmas Day – will be there to look after your child.”

Earlier this year, the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch issued a report featuring five safety recommendations to avoid similar occurrences to Elsie-Rose’s.

They include improving button and coin cell battery safety and design, as well as supporting the clinical detection of ingested batteries.

NHS England has advised parents to follow the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) guidance on how to protect children from the small batteries.

RoSPA advises parents to make sure that products using button batteries have lockable compartments, to be vigilant around products that may contain button batteries, and to ensure that any spare batteries are locked away.

Ashley Martin, RoSPA public health adviser said: “We would encourage people to be vigilant in ensuring that all products that contain button batteries are kept well away from young children.

“Christmas is a particularly important time as so many additional novelty products that contain button batteries, including musical cards, and battery-powered decorations are around the house.

“It’s important to remember how harmful these products can be if picked up and swallowed.”

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