A TODDLER who struggled to eat and breathe had a watch battery stuck in her throat for four months.

Sofia-Grace Hill swallowed the button-sized device which then lodged in and burned her oesophagus.

Dad Calham from Swindon noticed his one-year-old daughter could only eat pureed food and had difficulty drinking and breathing, but thought tonsilitis was to blame.

After she was rushed to hospital, X-rays revealed the true source of the problem which surgeons removed in a two-hour operation and credited Sofia-Grace's survival with the battery being old and discharged.

Calham said: "I was gutted when I saw it and angry at myself. I blamed myself, but now I realise there was nothing we could have done to know.

“Sofia is now on a purée diet and doing very well. She is improving week by week with regular dilations which is stretching and improving her oesophagus.”

The toddler now has to have a general anaesthetic to stretch her oesophagus every two weeks but faces the prospect of further surgery.

Calham added: "The damage has left a pocket in her oesophagus which needs to close, but Sofia is improving week by week with regular dilations which is improving her oesophagus.

"But I know the chance of survival in the first weeks after this happens is very low, so we are moving in the right direction."

He is unsure how his daughter found or swallowed the button battery and warned parents about the dangers.

Calham said: "Just get rid of them or lock them away and don't give your child car keys to play with. Always trust your instincts as a parent."

The Bristol Royal Hospital for Children is treating Sofia-Grace. Consultant paediatric surgeon Janet McNally suggested that the girl had managed to survive with the battery in her throat for so long because the battery had lost its charge.

She added: "Clinicians and the government have been warning of the dangers of button batteries for a long time. But not all parents are aware of how dangerous they can be."

A hospital spokesperson said: "Do not leave button batteries, items containing button batteries, or small magnets lying around the house.

"Keep them out of reach children. If there is any concern that a child has swallowed a battery or magnet, immediately call 999 or attend the Emergency Department.

“A child may not show symptoms if a battery or magnet is swallowed or ingested but it can have severe consequences if not treated or attended to by medical teams quickly.

“The newer neodymium magnets are much stronger than normal magnets and are found in many household objects and toys.

"When more than one magnet or a magnet and another metal object is swallowed, it can cause significant damage to the bowel.

"The more magnets swallowed, the greater the risk. A lithium battery could get stuck in the oesophagus and can cause a significant burn to the tissues within two hours.”

Wiltshire Trading Standards regularly warn about the potential risks of a child ingesting a button battery, how such an incident can best be avoided, and what parents should do if they believe a child has swallowed a battery.

A spokesman said: "More and more children are being injured, or even dying, from swallowing button or disk batteries. This tragedy can be prevented.

“Batteries stuck in the oesophagus must be removed as quickly as possible as severe damage can occur in just two hours. Batteries in the nose or ear also must be removed immediately to avoid permanent damage.”

“To prevent incidents such as these: store spare batteries securely, know which devices use button batteries and ensure they’re properly secured, keep unsecured batteries or devices away from children, ensure children are aware of the dangers, and safely dispose of dead button batteries immediately.

“If you suspect your child has swallowed a battery, take them straight to A&E.”