Girl, 4, Dies After Swallowed Lithium Battery Causes Internal Bleeding

Monday, 01 Jul 2013 12:50 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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A 4-year-old girl from suburban Noosa, north of Sunshine Coast, Australia, swallowed a lithium battery and later died at a Brisbane hospital Sunday morning, authorities said.

Authorities told The Courier-Mail newspaper that the girl was brought into Noosa Hospital Sunday morning where doctors determined she was suffering stomach bleeding. Emergency crews later flew the girl by a medical helicopter to the Royal Brisbane Hospital where she was listed in critical condition.

The Courier-Mail reported that doctors pronounced the girl dead Sunday afternoon after she arrived at Royal Brisbane.

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Susan Teerds from Kidsafe Queensland told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that parents must be vigilant in keeping lithium batteries, which are small and circular, away from their children.

"When a child swallows a battery it often gets caught in the esophagus, around the voice box. Once it's been lodged, within an hour, it will start to burn a hole," Teerds said. "The saliva actually starts a chemical reaction and burns a hole through the esophagus and can keep burning a hole into the aorta, through to the spine and whatever else is there."

According to the Courier-Mail, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website warns that ingesting this kind of battery could lead to perforation of the esophagus as it lodges in the throat and burns a hole.

The website said the acid could then leak from the battery and cause tissue damage and fatal internal bleeding, reported the Courier-Mail. Many toys and other electronic items use lithium batteries.

ABC News' "Good Morning America" reported in 2012 that a pediatrics journal concluded that children swallowing the small lithium batteries is becoming commonplace.

ABC News wrote at the time that physicians reported more than 65,000 visits involving kids who had ingested batteries occurred over the past 20 years, most of those button batteries.

A professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Ian Jacobs, an ear, nose and throat specialist, told ABC News if a lithium battery stays lodged in the esophagus for more than two hours, the battery can erode through the soft tissue of the esophagus, eventually causing causing death.

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