What to Do When Your Child Has an Object Stuck in Their Nose

Kids! Are we right? There is an orifice right in front of their face, and it isn’t their mouth. What better place to put jellybeans, LEGO parts, button batteries, or a whole host of other things that Do. Not. Belong. There.

Typically, children use their noses for storage between the ages of one and three. Still, there is no age limit on this behavior.

Let’s discuss what can get stuck up a nose, how you can tell, and what to do next. Also, we tell you when to bring the child to the emergency room.

Will It Go Up My Nose?

Over the years, countless items have found their way into a child’s nasal cavity, including:

  • Small toys and accessories, like Barbie shoes
  • Beads, sequins, stickers, and craft supplies
  • Tissues, napkins, tissue paper, and cotton balls
  • Clay, crayons, Play-Do(R)
  • Game pieces
  • Erasers 
  • Food 
  • Rocks
  • Medication or pills
  • Button batteries (an emergency room situation)

This is not an exhaustive list. But, the type of object itself will determine if you want to try to remove it yourself or if a trip to the ER is warranted.

Button batteries are a special case. If you believe your kid has a battery anywhere inside their body, you need to bring them to the emergency room. Batteries can cause severe tissue damage and burns in less than two hours. The higher the voltage, the faster the injury occurs. 

How Can You Tell If a Child Has Something Up Their Nose?

If you catch them in the act, it’s simple. Don’t make a big deal of it, though, or they’ll do it again just to see you react.

Otherwise, look for the following symptoms:

  • Foul-smelling discharge from a single nostril
  • Nose pain on one side
  • A bloody nose, especially if you can’t stop the bleeding
  • Extremely bad breath
  • Nonverbal pointing at the nose to communicate pain or discomfort
  • Complaints about an odor nobody else can smell
  • Whistling noises when they breathe

The longer an object stays in the nose, the higher the chance of infection, or the chance the child will move it higher into the nasal cavity. 

What To Do When You Discover It

Don’t panic, no matter how much you want to. If you are upset, it may trigger the child to become more upset, making it much more difficult to remove the object.

First try to determine what’s up there. As you look, calm the child and get them to breathe through their mouth. If they cry, they could sniffle, making the object move higher up.

Sit the child up and lean them forward so gravity can help. Try not to have them lie down unless it’s necessary. Then look — just look. Don’t try to dig it out yet. 

Removing Objects from Your Child’s Nose 101

Before you start trying to remove the object, remember that multiple removal attempts may end up aggravating the nose and upsetting the child. Try to get the object out in one go, if you can.

If your child understands how to blow their nose, have them gently blow while you press on the non-runny nostril. Gentle air pressure may be enough to get the object to fall out.

You can try to remove the object manually if you can see it and reach it easily with your fingers. Don’t probe with cotton swabs or use tweezers. You might push the object further into the nose or cause the child injury if the tweezers have sharp points. 

One last trick is called the “parent’s kiss.” 

  • Place your mouth over the child’s mouth and make a seal
  • Hold the nostril without an object closed with your finger
  • Blow gently into the child’s mouth

You might dislodge the item, just as if the child blew their nose. Sounds silly, but it often works!

The Family First ER pediatric team treats infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers with care. Learn more about our pediatric services here.

When to Seek Medical Attention

After trying to remove the object and being unsuccessful, it’s time to call the doctor or go to the emergency room.

You should only allow medical personnel to attempt the removal in the following circumstances:

  • You cannot see or remove the object yourself
  • The child continues to have nasal discharge running out of the nostril once you remove the object
  • Any nosebleed lasts more than 15 or 20 minutes if the object is still there
  • You aren’t sure you got everything out
  • You believe the child may have a small battery or other chemical-containing objects up their nose — Go to the ER immediately.

Pay attention to signs from your child that they are still in pain, even if you managed to remove the object from their nose.

What the Doctor Does

Doctors have a few tricks up their sleeve. If the child has a slight nosebleed, the doctor may put a solution up the child’s nose to shrink the blood vessel and stop the bleeding. Then the doctor attempts to remove the object if it seems safe, using various instruments like special forceps or a nasal speculum.

If the doctor can’t get the object out, they may send you to the emergency room or an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor). With really challenging cases, or if an X-ray shows anything of concern, the child may require surgery.

Preventing Children from Placing Things That Do Not Belong Up Their Noses

Supervision is the best prevention for almost any trouble a toddler can imagine. Watch them while they eat and clean up any uneaten food on the floor. 

Teach your child nose-care tips and model what you want them to do (and what you don’t want them to do). Teach older siblings to keep their craft supplies and small toys on a table away from the toddler’s reach and clean up any small toys or game pieces lying around.

When your child is outside, watch for other items that fit in nostrils — rocks, sand, bugs, a small stick, etc. If you catch them putting something in their nose, keep calm and explain we don’t put these things in our noses or other body cavities. You will need to repeat it often, but it eventually sinks in.

Come to Family First ER

We understand how scary it can be to find something stuck in your child’s nose, especially if you can’t get it out. If your child requires emergency treatment for any illness or injury, come to Family First ER. Our pediatric physicians have seen every issue under the sun and will treat you and your child like family.