Any parent of young children can tell you it sometimes feels like little ones run on batteries: they keep going and going and going and going… until they conk out and need to recharge for a cycle. Of course, a child with a literal battery inside of it is not good. Most consumer electronics, especially those oriented towards tykes, are designed to prevent them from gaining access to batteries, but it’s important for parents to remain vigilant. Our guide to battery safety for babies and kids looks at potential risks from swallowed batteries, battery explosions and more. Along the way we’ll help separate legitimate sources of worry from the bugaboos its not worth concerning yourself with.
The smallest commonly used batteries in consumer electronics are button batteries, or coin cells. These round power sources are cheap to produce and hold their charge for a long time, making them a popular choice for devices with low power demands like watches and pocket calculators. A lot of kids toys fall into this category, which unfortunately means they’re the most likely battery to be swallowed.
Our bodies are hardy; in most cases, a swallowed button battery will pass through a child’s system without incident, but there are tragic exceptions. If the battery gets caught in the esophagus, it can cause serious damage. As the UK’s Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) notes, lithium batteries can react with saliva, creating a caustic soda with the same chemical makeup as drain cleaner. Within just two to three hours, injuries can be fatal.
Here are some tips on keeping button batteries out of kids’ mouths:
- Store unused batteries out of children’s reach
- Properly dispose of dead batteries—know your local battery recycling depot or collection. If you need advice, we covered it in our popular article about recycling and disposing of old tech.
- Examine toys before allowing children to play: If the battery compartment can be opened without a screwdriver, there is a possibility a child could stumble on a shiny, tasty-looking button
If you suspect your child may have swallowed a button battery, watch for these symptoms (information again via CAPT):
- Choking, gagging or drooling
- Throat or abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
A swallowed battery may do no harm, but the safest thing to do is get your child to the emergency room as soon as possible. Let’s say that again, the safest and best thing you can do to look after your child is to call the emergency room as soon as possible.
Fires caused by batteries are fairly uncommon these days, at least among those produced by reputable manufacturers. With that said, there are always exceptions like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which notoriously caught fire on several flights due to changes in atmospheric pressure. Keep an eye out of manufacturer’s recalls on the devices you use!
For the most part though, batteries, power banks and other related devices are perfectly safe under normal use conditions. We’ve written a number of posts answering readers’ questions about power safety, including the ones below:
- Why Cheap Dollar Store Chargers Should Be Avoid At All Costs
- Is it Safe to Leave a Phone Charging Overnight?
- Tips for Keeping Your Device Safe in Summer
- The Definitive Guide To Keep Devices Safe in Winter
Of course, when it comes to battery safety for babies and kids, “normal use conditions” may not be on the offing. If a child’s battery-powered toy or console gets something spilled on it, it should be turned off immediately. Keep toys away from heat sources, like radiators or baseboard heaters, and be careful with electronics left out in the snow. In most cases, the toy will be non-functional at worst, but there is always the chance of more serious malfunction when electronics are seriously abused.
As we’ve noted, the chance of a child being burned or scarred by a battery explosion is remote, and as long as you keep an eye on them, swallowing batteries is also avoidable. If your kids are old enough, talk to them about battery safety. With your guidance, they may get more mileage out of cherished toys, and you’ll feel more secure knowing they know better than to put shiny things in their mouths.
If you have kids, tell us how you’ve talked to them about battery safety! Do you have any additional battery safety tips for babies and kids to share with other parents? Let us know in the comments.