Mum claims kitchen item saved daughter’s life after swallowing button battery

Carly Bass

·News Reporter

Mon, 29 August 2022 at 9:26 am

An unlikely kitchen staple is what helped save the life of one little girl who swallowed a button battery, with doctors praising her parents for their quick thinking, her mum says.

Katie Jacobsen, from the US, said honey is what helped reduced the severity of her daughter’s accident and is encouraging all parents to have some handy, but Australian authorities advise against it.

In Australia, one child a month is seriously injured after swallowing or inserting the small, round battery into their mouth, according to ACCC’s Product Safety Australia. Some children sustain lifelong injuries, while some incidents can be fatal.

Young girl easting meal (left) Barbie doll with button battery (right)
The young girl swallowed a button battery that was inside her Barbie doll. Source: Facebook

Ms Jacobsen said her family was enjoying their dinner when her daughter Maggie announced she’d “swallowed that shiny thing”.

Looking around, the worried mum noticed her daughter’s doll had its batteries missing.

Ms Jacobsen began to panic. “I know immediately that this is bad,” she said in a post on Facebook on Saturday.

As they rushed to get to the hospital, the family desperately sought an immediate plan, and that’s when they discovered honey could help, according to advice online.

Once there, doctors rushed Maggie in for an X-ray, her mum Ms Jacobsen revealed and “sure enough there is a battery, but it has slid right down to her stomach where it is less dangerous”.

“They kept her overnight with plans to possibly retrieve the battery in the morning,” she explained.

“But first thing, they did another X-ray and the battery was sliding down again into her intestines.”

US experts recommend honey which helps to coat the battery, but Aussies are advised against it. Source: Facebook
US experts recommend honey which helps to coat the battery, but Aussies are advised against it. Source: Facebook

At that point, Ms Jacobsen said there was “very little risk” and it was all thanks to the honey, she claims.

“Multiple times the doctors told us how good it was that we gave her that honey right away. Because it coats the battery and keeps it from getting stuck,” she said.

Aussie parents warned against giving honey

But while this advice is given by America’s National Capitol Poison Centre which says to give 10ml every 10 minutes, the advice is different in Australia.

While Kidsafe Australia has heard of the honey advice given by US authorities they “certainly don’t provide such suggestions and immediate medical advice should be sought for all instructions,” they told Yahoo News Australia.

In Australia, the national Poisons Information Centre and the advice from the ACCC Product Safety Australia is to not “let the child eat or drink and do not induce vomiting” –– and this includes honey.

A spokesperson from Kidsafe Australia told Yahoo News Australia it can be difficult to know if a child has swallowed a battery.

“So in order to pre-empt the potential risk, as we do at Kidsafe, the best prevention is to be very conscious of products coming into the home, or that the child might access,” they said.

Button battery in person's hand
Button batteries are commonly found in children’s toys and other household items, but can be extremely dangerous. Source: AAP

Potentially deadly outcome

Incidents involving batteries are dangerous for a number of reasons. When the lithium battery mixes with saliva it creates an electrical current that causes a chemical reaction, and it burns through soft tissue in as little as two hours, but may take days, according to Kidsafe.

Depending on where the button battery becomes lodged when ingested, it can burn the oesophagus, stomach, lungs, larynx or bowel. Its small size also means it can block children’s airways, causing breathing difficulties.

There are various symptoms associated with the swallowing of batteries, however, there may be none present at all.

So prompt action is critical and parents are advised to not wait for symptoms to develop.

Gagging or choking, drooling, chest pain and coughing or noisy breathing are some. But there could also be unexplained vomiting, bleeding from the gut or nose, an unexpected fever and abdominal pain.

If you suspect your child has ingested a button battery or has trouble breathing, call 000 immediately.

Then contact the Poisons Information Centre on 131 126 and you’ll be directed to the nearest hospital or emergency service that can manage the injury.

Not every health facility can manage injuries due to button batteries.

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