14 months old Eva McCafferty swallowed a button battery..........it eroded her oesophagus.


As more electronic items appear in the modern home and with thoughts turning to Christmas, families with young children are being warned of the dangers of button batteries in a bid to reduce accidental choking and poisoning.

  • They look innocuous, but can cause utterly horrific internal burns. 
  • When ingested, lithium or 'button' batteries cause lethal chemical reactions.
  • Electric currents from batteries combined with saliva creates caustic soda.

The risk of children swallowing these batteries is increasing, there are around 3,500 incidents reported every year with deaths having been reported in the UK. Gadgets containing the batteries are becoming more prevalent, and increased numbers are introduced into homes in the run up to Christmas, in things such as electronic toys and musical greetings cards. If undetected, the batteries can do serious damage to the gastrointestinal system.

Five-year-old Eva McCafferty from ‪#Ballymoney in Northern Ireland was one of the children unlucky enough to swallow a button battery. Aged just 14 months, Eva was admitted to hospital with life-threatening symptoms, with the battery having eroded her oesophagus. She required emergency surgery to remove the battery, and spent a prolonged time in intensive care.

Her mother Kathleen said: “We want to highlight the dangers to other families, as we were not aware of how devastating the effects of swallowing one of these batteries could be. We don’t want any other children to have to go through what Eva did.”

Family safety charity RoSPA has teamed up with the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (RBHSC), the Public Health Agency (PHA) and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in a campaign to warn parents, carers and health professionals in Northern Ireland of this worrying trend.

Dr Julie-Ann Maney, of the ‪#BelfastTrust RCPCH and RBHSC, said: “Although small, button batteries pose a very real danger to children if swallowed. The sleek shape and size makes them attractive to small inquisitive hands and sadly, the consequences of one of these being swallowed can be severely life-changing and sometimes even fatal.”

“As a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine and working in the emergency department of The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, I have seen increasing numbers of children presenting with breathing difficulties and vomiting blood as a result of swallowing one of these batteries. This can be fatal. Once the battery has been removed, there are still silent dangers and long-term health problems.”

“I urge all parents, friends and family members to make sure that any casing around batteries in toys and electrical devices are secure before giving them to a child. And if in doubt, don’t take the risk – a child’s life could depend on it.”

Young children are naturally inquisitive, and explore the world in part by putting things in their mouths.

Thankfully Eva recovered and is now a happy wee 5yr old little girl – it took 3 years before she was discharged.