THE fast lane of a motorway is not the best place to discover your toddler has had a close encounter with a box of extra-hot chilli powder.
But that was the nightmare situation facing Sarah Bucknall as she drove past Portsmouth with her two-year-old daughter Verity.
The inquisitive youngster had managed to unzip her mum’s bag and find a packet of Habanero chilli powder Sarah had been given by her mother-in-law.
Before long the fiery chilli was all over Verity – as well as in her eyes and mouth – and was causing her to scream in pain.
In a state of panic her mum turned into Portsmouth in a desperate attempt to find help – and she found it after stopping in front of the Brittany Ferries office at Portsmouth International Port.
‘She was beside herself with pain – the chilli powder was exceptionally hot,’ said 33-year-old Sarah.
‘It was in her eyes, mouth and all over her face and legs; she looked as if she had terrible sunburn.
‘Verity was inconsolable and wouldn’t let me give her water or milk to drink as her mouth hurt so much.
‘Some of the ladies who work in the offices came out and, instead of telling me off for being in their private car park, offered to help and brought us water and tissues then let us come inside so I could change her nappy and clothes.’
Upon seeing Verity’s distress, Brittany Ferries employees Sam Hiscox, Jacqueline Hayward and Cathy Smith immediately fetched water to wash away the powder and took the family to Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham.
Sarah, from Irthlingborough, in Northamptonshire, said: ‘They suggested we should go to the children’s unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital, and offered to escort me there in one of their vans, as I didn’t know my way around Portsmouth.
‘I can’t believe how helpful they were – without them I don’t know what we would have done. All I can say is thank you.’
Brittany employee Sam said they were just glad that Verity turned out all right.
‘It was very dramatic,’ she said. ‘She was clearly in a lot of pain, so it was the least we could do.
‘We were all eager for news on how she is doing and it’s great to hear that, apart from a bit of a rash, Verity didn’t suffer any after effects.’
Experts say milk or cream – rather than water – should be used to relieve chilli burns.