Fife mum's warning after daughter swallowed battery

A Fife mum has issued a warning to families about the dangers of button batteries after her daughter required urgent hospital treatment.

Monday, 6th December 2021, 4:45 pm
Left, Sarah with mum Joanne and stepdad Jamie. Right, an x-ray of the battery lodged in Sarah's oesophagus
Left, Sarah with mum Joanne and stepdad Jamie. Right, an x-ray of the battery lodged in Sarah's oesophagus

Nine-year-old Sarah Wallace, from Glenrothes, came and told her mum that she had swallowed “a bit of round metal”, which she quickly identified as a battery from the remote control from a night light.

Recognising the seriousness of the situation mum Joanne called 999 before rushing her daughter to the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, where x-rays confirmed that the button battery had become lodged in Sarah’s oesophagus.

While an emergency ambulance was preparing an immediate transfer to the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh, the battery was dislodged when Sarah vomited.

Joanne explained: “Within ten minutes of swallowing the battery, Sarah was screaming in pain and couldn’t breathe properly. We rushed to the emergency department knowing how serious the situation was.

"When Sarah was sick, the battery became dislodged from her throat, but what was once silver and shiny had turned black and was leaking. A transformation that had taken less than an hour.”

Despite the battery being dislodged, Sarah was then transferred to Edinburgh, for further tests and scans to understand how much damage the battery had caused and whether any further treatment would be needed.

Joanne said: “The tests showed that the damage caused by the battery was relatively small and should leave minimal scarring, which we hope will mean that Sarah will not require any further treatment. The whole ordeal though was terrifying, but we were incredibly lucky. For many other children, the same situation could have been fatal.

“Button batteries are in so many things around the house, from TV remotes to children’s toys.

"To all parents and guardians, I urge you to check where these items are stored, and to make sure that battery compartments can’t be easily accessed. For parents of older children, please talk to your child about how dangerous batteries can be.”

Consultant Joe Meredith who carried out the procedures at NHS Lothian’s Royal Hospital for Children and Young People said that the situation could have easily been much worse.

He said: “Sarah is really lucky.

"Thanks to her mum’s quick action the damage caused by the button battery was small.

"The situation however, could have been entirely different. If a button battery is swallowed it can cause serious damage to internal organs which can be fatal. With Christmas fast approaching, I would urge parents to be extra vigilant as button batteries are often found in decorations and children’s toys.

“If you think your child has swallowed a battery, take them to the nearest A&E department as quickly as possible.

"Do not give them anything to eat or drink or try to make them sick. If possible, try to find out what sort of battery your child swallowed, but do not delay taking them to hospital.”

For more information about the dangers of button batteries and how you can use and store them safely please contact the Child Accident Prevention Trust.