Child Safety Week is an annual campaign run by the Child Accident Prevention Trust, who help families develop skills in managing risks to children’s safety. This year, the theme for Child Safety Week is ‘Safety in Mind’ which focuses on busy families and giving parents the confidence to make appropriate safety decisions in the home.
One of the ways in which parents and other family members can help is to be mindful about their hearing aid batteries. Often small in size and made from zinc or lithium, hearing aid batteries are either single use or rechargeable, depending on user preference. These batteries should always be stored in a cool, dry place and well out of reach of small children (especially those aged 6 months to 4 ½ years).
Some hearing aid batteries can be as small as 6mm x 4mm, which could easily be misplaced or picked up by small hands. If a child ingests or swallows a button battery, it can quickly get stuck in their food pipe or even burn through to a main artery, causing a medical emergency.
While lithium coin cell batteries are considered to be the most dangerous due to their size and charge, used ‘flat’ batteries can still hold enough charge to be lethal to a child.
Children may also find spare batteries that are stored within reach or have fallen from the pack so be sure to keep products well out of their reach, especially if a battery compartment isn’t properly secured.
Studies published in the journal ‘Paedicatrics’ in 2010 suggested that a 6.7-fold increase in the percentage of button battery ingestions between 1985 and 2009 was directly related to higher use of lithium cell batteries, which power many household products – including hearing aids.
In a family home, it’s important to remember that small, shiny objects naturally attract childrens’ attention. Hearing aid batteries can easily be picked up and may end up in a child’s nose, ears or worse still, their oesophagus. Long term damage caused by burns or infection can seriously impact a child’s health or may even lead to death.
If a child has swallowed a battery, don’t delay: take them straight to A&E or call 999 for an ambulance. Tell the doctor you think your child has swallowed a button battery. If you have the battery packaging or the product the battery came out of, take it with you. Don’t let them eat or drink and don’t make them sick.