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Foreign body in the nose

Definition

This article discusses first aid for a foreign object placed into the nose.

Alternative Names

Something stuck in the nose; Objects in the nose

Considerations

Curious young children may insert small objects into their nose in a normal attempt to explore their own bodies. Potential objects placed in the nose may include food, seeds, dried beans, small toys (such as marbles), crayon pieces, erasers, paper wads, cotton, and beads.

A foreign body in a child's nose can be there for awhile without a parent being aware of the problem. The object may only be discovered when visiting a doctor to find the cause of irritation, bleeding, infection, or difficulty breathing.

Symptoms

Symptoms that your child may have a foreign body in his or her nose include:

  • Difficulty breathing through the affected nostril
  • Feeling of something in the nose
  • Foul-smelling or bloody nasal discharge
  • Irritability, particularly in infants
  • Irritation or pain in the nose

First Aid

  • DO NOT search the nose with cotton swabs or other tools. This may push the object further into the nose.
  • DO NOT use tweezers or other tools to remove an object that is stuck deep inside the nose.
  • DO NOT try to remove an object that you cannot see or one that is not easy to grasp. This can push the object farther in or cause damage.
  • Have the person breathe through the mouth. The person should not breathe in sharply. This may force the object in further.
  • Gently press and close the nostril that does NOT have the object in it. Ask the person to blow gently. This may help push the object out.  Avoid blowing the nose too hard or repeatedly.
  • If this method fails, get medical help.

Call immediately for emergency medical assistance if

Seek immediate medical help if:

  • The person cannot breathe well
  • Bleeding occurs and continues for more than 2 or 3 minutes after you remove the foreign object, despite placing gentle pressure on the nose
  • An object is stuck in both nostrils
  • You cannot easily remove a foreign object from the person's nose
  • You think an infection has developed in the nostril where the object is stuck

Prevention

Teach children to avoid placing foreign objects into their noses and other body openings.

Keep small objects out of the reach of infants and toddlers.

References

Thomas SH, White BA. Foreign bodies. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 57.


Review Date: 1/1/2013
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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