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 health care provider 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.
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Get medical help right away 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
    • Prevention measures may include:

      • Cut food into appropriate sizes for small children.
      • Discourage talking, laughing, or playing while food is in the mouth.
      • Do not give foods such as hot dogs, whole grapes, nuts, popcorn, or hard candy to children under age 3.
      • Keep small objects out of the reach of young children.
      • Teach children to avoid placing foreign objects into their noses and other body openings. 
  • References
    • Cukor J, Manno M. Pediatric respiratory emergencies. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 168.

      Thomas SH, Goodloe JM. Foreign bodies. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al., eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 60.