An accident prevention society is warning families of battery dangers as December 25 draws closer.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has issued advice as the arrival of the Christmas period can see a rise in the number of small, button-shaped, lithium batteries contained in children's toys, musical Christmas cards and remote controls.
The organisation is concerned about the dangers posed by the batteries, which could include children swallowing them.
A child may not choke on the small batteries, but they are left undetected they can cause serious damage to the gastrointestinal system, including setting up an electrical current resulting in a build up of caustic soda. This would burn through the oesophagus and other major blood vessels.
Sheila Merrill, public health adviser for RoSPA, said: “Young children are naturally inquisitive, and explore the world in part by putting things in their mouths.
“As more and more electronic items are introduced into the family home, the potential for children to swallow button batteries increases, and this can lead to choking or poisoning.
“We want parents, grandparents, childminders and carers to be aware of the danger and understand that these seemingly harmless little batteries can cause serious injury to children.”
At 14-months-old Eva McCafferty, from Northern Ireland, 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. She is now 5.
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.”
Parents should make sure that toys and other products using the batteries have lockable battery compartments so they are safe for children to use.
RoSPA is advising parents that children are not given access to music Christmas cards, frameless candles and remote controls.
If your child swallows a battery, seek medical advice immediately.