Dr Andy Raffles
Foreign Bodies in the Nose
Updated: Oct 11, 2019
What is a foreign body in the nose?
Children younger than 5 years often experiment with their bodies by putting foreign objects — or objects that don’t belong — into their noses. Sometimes they do it out of curiosity. Other times, they are copying other children and occasionally, they accidentally inhale the foreign body while trying to smell it.
In most cases, the objects are soft or small such as small sweets, peas, small pebbles, paper tissues, clay, pieces of toys, beads, foam, pen caps and small rubbers from the top of a pencil. The range of foreign objects removed from a child’s nose is limitless!!
Signs and symptoms
Your child may tell you he or she put something into his nose, or you may discover it on your own.
The most common symptom of a foreign body in the nose is a smelly or green nasal discharge. The discharge appears only on the side of the nose with the foreign object in it, and often has a bad smell. In some cases, your child may also have a bloody discharge from the nostril. Sometimes a whistling sound can be heard while your child is breathing.
Best and simplest removal method is a ‘mother’s kiss’ but only try this once!!
Most foreign objects in the nose won’t come out unless a parent or health care provider removes them — and especially for small children, who aren’t very good at blowing their noses. If the child tries to remove the object they usually only success in pushing it further into the nasal space!
There are two important things to remember if this happens to your child:
1. Try once, then get help – Make only one attempt to remove the object on your own (unless you believe the situation is life threatening). The more times you try, the less co-operative your child will be when a health care professional tries to remove it. This increases the likelihood of needing some sort of sedation and procedure to remove the object.
2. ‘Mother’s kiss’ method – If you do try to handle the situation at home use this method, which works best for small, hard objects like beads. Follow these steps for the kiss method:
Place your mouth over your child’s mouth
Hold the nostril that isn’t blocked closed with a finger
Blow gently into your child’s mouth - DO NOT SUCK AS YOU RISK EITHER YOU OR YOUR CHILD INHALING THE OBJECT INTO THE LUNG
You can use this process to remove hard objects without a doctor’s help. Using this gentle pressure to force the object out is successful about 60% of the time. Usually a minor procedure is needed to remove softer objects made of foam or tissue as these tend not to be ejected with the “mothers kiss” method.
One final tip: Look for other objects
Putting foreign objects in the nose can be a habitual thing. This means that if a child has put something in his or her nose, he or she is likely to have also tried putting something somewhere else — like maybe in an ear, too. So if you find one stuck object, don’t forget to look for more!!
If there is any possibility that the object may be a small button battery, take your child to the nearest emergency department immediately as these can cause tissue damage.