Foreign Body in the Nose

Written by April Kahn | Published on August 7, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

The Dangers of Your Child Putting Foreign Objects in His or Her Mouth or Nose

Children are naturally inquisitive and often wonder how things work. Usually, they display this curiosity by asking questions, or by exploring the world around them.

One of the dangers that can occur as a result of this curiosity is that your child may place foreign objects into his or her mouth, nose, and ears. While often harmless, this can create a choking hazard and put them in danger of serious injuries or infections.

A foreign body in the nose means that an object is present in the nose when it is not naturally supposed to be there.Children under the age of 5 often have this issue, although it is not uncommon for older children to also place foreign objects in their nostrils.

Common Items That May End up in Your Child’s Nose

A foreign body enters the nostril when an object is physically put up the nose by the child, another person, or by accident in some other way.

Common items that children put into their noses include:

  • small toys
  • pieces of eraser
  • tissue
  • clay (used for arts and crafts)
  • food
  • pebbles
  • dirt

Children often put these objects into their nose out of curiosity, or because they are mimicking other children. However, foreign objects can also go into the nose while your child is sleeping, or when he or she tries to sniff or smell an object.

What Are the Signs of a Foreign Body in the Nose?

The easiest way to tell that your child has put something up his or her nose is to actually see the object in the nostril. Your child may also have a runny nose or difficulty breathing.

Nasal Drainage

Another common symptom of a foreign body in the nose is nasal drainage on the affected side of the nose. The fluid draining from this nostril may be clear or grey. In some cases, it may have a bad odor. This is usually the sign of an infection.

Breathing Difficulty

Your child may also have difficulty breathing through the affected nostril. This occurs when the object clogs the nostril, making it difficult for air to move through the nasal passage.When your child is breathing through his or her nose, you may hear a whistling sound. An object stuck in the nostril might cause this sound.

Diagnosing a Foreign Body in the Nose

You may see the object yourself, when looking into your child’s nose. However, some objects are too small to see clearly, so your child’s doctor may need to look for it. The doctor will ask your child to lay back while he looks into his or her nose with a hand-held lighted instrument.

If your child’s nose is running, the doctor may swab some of the fluid using a cotton swab and test it for the presence of bacteria.

How to Remove the Object

The only treatment for a foreign body in the nose is to remove the foreign object from the nostril. In some cases, blowing the nose gently may be all that’s necessary to treat this condition. If this method fails, you can try removing the object using tweezers. Be sure only to do this if the object is large enough. If it’s a smaller object, do not use tweezers because it may push the object further into the nose.

You should avoid:

  • using a cotton swab
  • sticking anything in the nose to remove the object if the object is small
  • pushing the object further into the nostril

Keep your child from sniffing at this point, since it can cause the object to move further up their nose and pose a choking hazard. Encourage your child to breathe through his or her mouth until the object is removed.

If the tweezers fail, go to your nearest hospital emergency room or doctor’s office.

The doctor can use a machine with suction at the end to suction the object out of the nostril. The doctor can also use special instruments to grasp or scoop out the foreign object.

If fluid was leaking from the affected nostril, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics or nasal drops to treat or prevent an infection.

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