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What to do if your child has a foreign object in their nose?

What to do if your child has a foreign object in their nose?

Children sometimes put things in their nose. In most cases, the objects are soft and small such as tissue, clay, beads, toys, or food. Treatment involves removal of the object but sometimes it is not easily removed. In some cases, the doctor who sees your child may choose to leave the object there for a number of reasons. This post explains when that will happen and what to expect after you go home. You may sometimes be referred to the ENT (nose specialist) team for removal.

What objects are dangerous?

Some objects in the nose cause more problems than others and need to be removed more urgently:

  • Button batteries are the most dangerous objects to have in the nose. The interaction between the battery and the lining of the nose produces a reaction which burns the lining of the nose. If there is a button battery or an object which looks like it might be a button battery, this will require removal.
  • If there are two or more magnets and they are in both nostrils, the pressure caused by the magnets can eventually cause damage. These will then also need to be removed.

What if it’s not dangerous but it is causing problems?

Most other objects will cause no problems. Often the object is plastic. Plastic is not toxic and does not cause pain or lead to infection.

If an object in your child’s nose is causing pain or a smelly discharge, it will usually need removal.

What will happen if the object is still in my child’s nose when we go home?

Usually the object will come out on its own. Most often it comes out of the nostril. Occasionally it will find its way into the throat and in those circumstances it is usually swallowed.

If the object is not causing any problems, it can be left to come out on its own. If it stays in the nose and your child develops symptoms such as a bad smell or nasty discharge coming from their nostril, you should bring them back to the Emergency Department.

There is a very rare possibility that the object could go to the back of the nose and be inhaled into the lungs. If your child experiences any breathing difficulties please seek emergency medical attention immediately.

If your child has a persistent cough which is otherwise unexplained without signs of a viral illness, you should return to the Emergency Department for your child to be assessed.

Can I do anything to help the object come out?

You should never put anything into your child’s nose (for example your finger or a cotton bud) in an attempt to remove something. Usually you will push it further up and you could do damage to the inside of the nose.

There is a technique called the ‘parent’s kiss’ which involves you pushing the other nostril (the one without the object in it) closed and then blowing hard into your child’s mouth. It is not always successful but it is safe to do. It only works if you blow hard and fast and have a really good seal between your mouth and the child’s mouth. It is often messy for the person who does the parent’s kiss!

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Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

Resource number: ED51

Resource Type: Article

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