Take charge of button batteries around your home

Researchers call for parents’ input for national survey

They are known as the hidden dangers lurking around our homes, but are parents in the dark about the best way to protect their children from button batteries?

To coincide with Australia’s first International Button Battery Awareness Day (June 12), the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) has launched a new study that involves a national survey of parents and caregivers and button battery safety.

Unlike previous research which has focused on medical management of button battery injuries, the study will examine parents’ knowledge about the potential dangers of button batteries and safety practices.

“Every day, about three Australian children are taken to emergency departments suspected of having swallowed a button battery,” lead investigator Dr Anna Girardi said.

“Parents play a vital role in preventing button battery injuries as they most often occur in the home.

“We urge parents of children under five to respond to our survey and tell us how much they know about the injury prevention of button batteries.

“We hope to use the findings to ensure the right education about button battery safety and prevention strategies are targeted to prevent injuries and save lives.”

Small, shiny and appealing to young children, button batteries can be found in many common household devices such as watches, hearing aids, calculators, remote controls and toys.

Last year, the Australian Government introduced new mandatory standards for all products containing button batteries.

However, Dr Girardi, a speech pathologist of 10 years, said more needs to be done to protect children from the dangers these batteries pose.

“Despite these tougher safety measures, there are still many products slipping through the cracks, especially ones purchased online or overseas,” Dr Girardi said.

“Parents need to know what to look for when purchasing items, how to dispose of button batteries, and what signs and symptoms to look for so if it does happen, they can get help as soon as possible.”

Dr David Long, a registered paramedic, is also involved in the study.

He said button batteries can cause significant injury when swallowed or inserted into body cavities.

“These small batteries can cause tissue damage in as little as 15 minutes, and completely burn through tissue within two hours, which can cause lifelong issues with swallowing and eating, or in severe cases, death,” Dr Long said.

“When stuck in the oesophagus, the body’s moist tissues allow the battery to create to an electrical circuit, causing serious chemical burns within a very short period.”

The survey will ask parents about their knowledge of button battery safety, current strategies to prevent button battery injuries in the home, and more general home safety practices.

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