If swallowed, button batteries (also known as button cell batteries or coin batteries) can burn through the throat or stomach and cause major damage to other internal organs.
The Safe and Secure campaign aims to equip local practitioners and families with knowledge on how to prevent young children from ingesting these batteries, as well as other dangerous items such as magnets.
RoSPA’s Public Health Officer for the north, Pauline Herbison said: “RoSPA is aware of a number of deaths and some serious injuries as a result of children swallowing button batteries. If you think a child may have swallowed a button battery, seek medical advice immediately. Remember that time is very much of the essence.
“Although this campaign is particularly focused on button batteries, it will also provide information on other ingestion hazards from items like magnets which can be found in toys and other gadgets. We know of several young children in Northern Ireland who have had horrendous injuries from ingesting magnets. We are also aware of older children who now have life-changing injuries from swallowing magnets from fake tongue and facial piercings”.
The Northern strand of the campaign will launch on May 25 and will continue over the next few months. During this period, RoSPA will partner with key safety practitioners including health visitors and home safety officers who have direct contact with parents and carers of young children.
Safety practitioners who wish to get involved will be provided with educational materials by RoSPA to enhance the valuable work they already carry out, with a particular focus on supporting conversations on button batteries and other ingestion hazards. The Safe and Secure campaign, supports the objectives of the Department of Health’s Northern Ireland Home Accident Prevention Strategy 2015-2025 by raising awareness of the causes of home accidents and how to prevent them.
Dr. Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health in NI said: “Awareness is key to prevention. In Northern Ireland, two people die as a result of home accidents in a typical week.
“The current Northern Ireland Home Accident Prevention strategy pays careful attention to people over 65, those with greater social, economic and health disadvantages, and babies and children under five, the latter of which are most likely to ingest items like button batteries and magnets.
“We’re proud to support this campaign which is focused on providing parents, caregivers and practitioners the information and guidance they need to be more aware of the risks posed to children and babies by button batteries and other potential ingestion hazards.”
RoSPA has also launched a new webpage for families and practitioners outlining the risks of swallowing button batteries, magnets and household cleaning products and what to do if you think a child has swallowed any of these.
The webpage also highlights that button batteries are found in a wide range of household items, including electronic toys, watches, remote controls, car key fobs, calculators, weighing scales and LED lights. The batteries come in a variety of sizes but most are 1-2cm in diameter. This means that they are of a similar size and shape to some sweets, so can be easily swallowed.
View the website here at: rospa.com/safe-and-secure