A two-year-old girl was an hour away from suffering permanent damage after she swallowed more than 20 button batteries.
Hope Summers, from Toowoomba in southeast Queensland, got her daughter to the hospital quickly as soon as she realised something was wrong after the mum saw her little girl had opened a packet of batteries and eaten them.
Ms Summers was not expecting to spend a night in hospital as her daughter, Saphira, underwent surgery last Saturday.
“Even with that quick response, she ended up with a burn injury to her tummy,” Queensland Ambulance Service clinical director Tony Hucker explained on Thursday.
“Luckily they were removed and she’s going to do okay.”
Ms Summers told reporters her daughter believed the batteries were lollies and she had not left Saphira for more than 20 minutes to answer a sensitive phone call she didn’t want the little girl to overhear.
“The scary thing is she will still point to at button battery packet and tell you it’s yummy,” Ms Summers said, adding all the button batteries have been removed from her home.
Ms Summers brought the packet of button batteries to the hospital with her as per the request of ambulance staff.
Mr Hucker described button batteries as “silent killers”.
“The risk of death is real and we need to understand it can be lethal, just because it’s so hard to pick up clinically,” he said.
“When kids ingest them it’s not obvious what the problem is.”
He explains once a button battery is ingested and caught in the oesophagus, it starts burning straight away.
And while Saphira only sustained superficial burns, she was told she was only an hour away from sustaining permanent damage.
“As time goes on [after ingesting the batteries] you burn more,” Mr Hucker explained.
“The longer the time, the worse the injury is going to be. If you’re at home and you think your child may have ingested a button battery it’s really good if you can call poison info straight away.”
The problem is the signs to look out for are “subtle” and Mr Hucker said parents were better placed at spotting something unusual.
“It might be a persistent cough, they might not be feeling well, they might be off their food, they may have some pains in their chest.”
Mr Hucker said the key was prevention because it was hard to “pick” whether a child had ingested the batteries or not.
He warned parents to check their houses, especially in the lead up to Christmas.
“We need to make sure, that we check out homes, particularly coming up to Christmas, because we should avoid products with button batteries if we can,” Mr Hucker said.
Mr Hucker explained button batteries can be found in Christmas cards, pen lights and thermometers, and those devices need to be “child proof”.
Ms Summers had a stern warning for other parents with young children, emphasising they should act immediately.
“If you think your child swallowed a battery, don’t stuff around, because you might not be as lucky,” Ms Summers said.
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