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Objects in the Nose

Objects in the Nose

Topic Overview

Young children are more likely than older children or adults to put small objects—such as beads, dried beans, popcorn, plastic toy pieces, foam rubber, or small batteries—up their noses. If the child doesn't tell you about it, your first clue may be a bad-smelling green or yellow discharge or blood (epistaxis) from one of the child's nostrils. The child's nose may also be tender and swollen.

Some objects in the nose cause more problems than others. Disc batteries (also called button cell batteries) are more dangerous than other objects and should be removed immediately. The moist tissue in the nose can cause the battery to release strong chemicals (alkali) quickly, often in less than 1 hour. This can cause serious damage to the sensitive mucous membranes lining the nose. Seeds, such as beans or popcorn, can swell from the moistness of the nasal tissue, making removal harder.

An object in the nose may cause some irritation and swelling of the mucous membranes inside the nose. This swelling can cause a stuffy nose, making it hard to breathe through the nose.

Infection can develop in the nose or in the sinuses following the insertion of an object. The longer the object is in the nose, the more likely it is that an infection will develop. The first sign of infection is usually increased drainage from the nose. It is usually from only one nostril. The drainage may be clear at first but turns yellow, green, or brown. The drainage may have an unpleasant odor. As the infection progresses, symptoms of sinusitis or another infection will develop.

An object inserted in the nose may cause a nosebleed if the object irritates the tissues in the nose. The nasal tissue can be damaged from pressure against the object. This is called pressure necrosis.

Older children and adults can also inhale objects while working closely with small objects. Nose rings and metal studs from nose piercings can also cause nose problems. A piece of glass may enter the nose during an automobile accident. You may be unaware of this because of other injuries that occur during the accident.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

Check Your Symptoms

Do you have a problem caused by an object in the nose?
Yes
Problem from an object in nose
No
Problem from an object in nose
How old are you?
Less than 12 years
Less than 12 years
12 years or older
12 years or older
Are you male or female?
Male
Male
Female
Female
Are you having trouble breathing (more than a stuffy nose)?
Yes
Difficulty breathing more than a stuffy nose
No
Difficulty breathing more than a stuffy nose
Would you describe the breathing problem as severe, moderate, or mild?
Severe
Severe difficulty breathing
Moderate
Moderate difficulty breathing
Mild
Mild difficulty breathing
Is there a disc battery stuck in the nose?
The battery needs to be removed right away-within 1 hour if possible.
Yes
Disc battery in nose
No
Disc battery in nose
Is an object stuck in the nose, and you can't remove it?
Yes
Object stuck in nose despite efforts to remove it
No
Object stuck in nose despite efforts to remove it
Do you think the nose may be infected?
Yes
Possible infection of nose
No
Possible infection of nose
Do you think you may have a fever?
Yes
Possible fever
No
Possible fever
Do you have diabetes or a weakened immune system?
What weakens the immune system in an adult or older child may be different than in a young child or baby.
Yes
Diabetes or immune problem
No
Diabetes or immune problem
Do you still have symptoms more than a week after the object was removed?
This could include symptoms such as a stuffy nose or swelling in the nose.
Yes
Symptoms 1 week after object was removed from nose
No
Symptoms 1 week after object was removed from nose

Severe trouble breathing means:

  • The child cannot eat or talk because he or she is breathing so hard.
  • The child's nostrils are flaring and the belly is moving in and out with every breath.
  • The child seems to be tiring out.
  • The child seems very sleepy or confused.

Moderate trouble breathing means:

  • The child is breathing a lot faster than usual.
  • The child has to take breaks from eating or talking to breathe.
  • The nostrils flare or the belly moves in and out at times when the child breathes.

Mild trouble breathing means:

  • The child is breathing a little faster than usual.
  • The child seems a little out of breath but can still eat or talk.

Seek Care Today

Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.

  • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
  • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
  • If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.

Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:

  • You may feel a little out of breath but still be able to talk (mild difficulty breathing), or you may be so out of breath that you cannot talk at all (severe difficulty breathing).
  • It may be getting hard to breathe with activity (mild difficulty breathing), or you may have to work very hard to breathe even when you’re at rest (severe difficulty breathing).

Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:

  • Diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and congenital heart disease.
  • Steroid medicines, which are used to treat a variety of conditions.
  • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Not having a spleen.

Symptoms of infection in the nose may include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the nose.
  • Pus or smelly drainage from the nose.
  • Fever.

Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:

  • Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS.
  • Long-term alcohol and drug problems.
  • Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety of conditions.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Other medicines used to treat autoimmune disease.
  • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
  • Not having a spleen.

Seek Care Now

Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

  • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
  • You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
    • You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
    • You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.

Make an Appointment

Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.

  • Make an appointment to see your doctor in the next 1 to 2 weeks.
  • If appropriate, try home treatment while you are waiting for the appointment.
  • If symptoms get worse or you have any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.

Try Home Treatment

You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.

  • Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.

Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:

  • Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
  • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
  • Medicines you take. Certain medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
  • Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
  • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.

There are a couple of ways to remove an object from the nose:

  • On the side that does not contain that object, press the nostril closed. Then blow hard through the nostril on the other side.
  • If your child can stay calm and you can see the object and grasp it, try to remove the object with tweezers. Do not try to grasp round objects because you could push the object farther back into the nostril. (Be careful not to hurt the inside of the nose with the tweezers.)

To remove an object from a child's nose, you can also try the "kiss" technique:

  • On the side that doesn't contain the object, press the nostril closed with your finger. (Or have the child do it, if he or she is old enough.)
  • Then blow a puff of air into the child's mouth. You may need to repeat this several times. The pressure will help push the object out of the nose.

Don't try this if it makes you nervous or if the child gets upset or says it hurts.

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

Call 911 or other emergency services now.

Severe trouble breathing means:

  • You cannot talk at all.
  • You have to work very hard to breathe.
  • You feel like you can't get enough air.
  • You do not feel alert or cannot think clearly.

Moderate trouble breathing means:

  • It's hard to talk in full sentences.
  • It's hard to breathe with activity.

Mild trouble breathing means:

  • You feel a little out of breath but can still talk.
  • It's becoming hard to breathe with activity.

Disc batteries are small, round batteries used in toys, cameras, watches, and other devices. Because of the chemicals they can release, they can cause serious problems if they are swallowed or get stuck in an ear or the nose. Small magnets used in household items and objects that contain a lot of lead (such as bullets, buckshot, fishing weights and sinkers, and some toys) also can cause problems if swallowed.

  • If a disc battery is stuck in the ear or nose:
    • The battery needs to be removed right away—within 1 hour if possible.
    • Use tweezers to try to remove the battery. If you can't remove it, get medical help.
  • If you have swallowed a disc battery, magnet, or lead object:
    • Get medical help right away.
    • Do not try to vomit.
    • Do not eat or drink anything.

Home Treatment

Removing an object from the nose

Follow these steps to remove an object from the nose:

  • Breathe through your mouth since the nose is blocked.
  • Pinch closed the side of the nose that doesn't have the object in it, and try to blow the object out of the blocked side. You may need to help a child pinch his or her nose.
  • Blow your nose forcefully several times. This may blow the object out of the nose.
  • If the object is partially out of the nose, you may be able to remove it. Stay still, and remove the object with your fingers or blunt-nosed tweezers. Be careful not to push the object farther into the nose. If a child resists or is not able to stay still, do not attempt to remove the object.
  • Some minor bleeding from your nose may occur after the object is removed. This usually is not serious and should stop after firmly pinching your nose shut for 10 minutes. See how to stop a nosebleed .

You may be able to remove an object from a child's nose using the "kiss technique." Do not try this if you are uncomfortable with it, if your child says it hurts, or if your child becomes upset by your attempts:

  • Apply pressure to close the child's unaffected nostril. You can do this, or the child can help by holding his or her finger on the unaffected side of the nose.
  • Blow a puff of air into the child's mouth. The positive pressure of this puff will help push the object out of the child's nose. You may need to repeat this activity several times.

Home treatment after removing an object from the nose

Some tenderness and nasal stuffiness are common after removing an object from the nose. Home treatment will often relieve a tender, stuffy nose and make breathing easier.

  • Drink extra fluids for 2 to 3 days to keep mucus thin.
  • Breathe moist air from a humidifier , hot shower, or sink filled with hot water.
  • Increase the humidity in your home, especially in the bedroom.
  • Use a saline nasal spray to help loosen mucus.
  • If your nose is still stuffy, you can try an oral decongestant or use a decongestant nasal spray. But be careful with these medicines. They may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems, so check the label first. If you do use these medicines, always follow the directions about how much to use based on age and weight. Oral decongestants are not as helpful as nasal sprays in children. Do not use a decongestant nasal spray for longer than 3 days. Overuse of decongestant sprays may cause the mucous membranes to swell up more than before (rebound effect). Avoid products containing antihistamines, which dry the nasal tissue.
  • Check the back of your throat for postnasal drip. If streaks of mucus appear, gargle with warm water to prevent a sore throat.
  • Elevate your head at night by sleeping on an extra pillow. This will decrease nasal stuffiness.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if one or more of the following symptoms occur during home treatment:

  • An infection develops.
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.

Prevention

Small children love to explore their surroundings. They are also curious about their bodies. To prevent children from inserting objects into their noses:

  • Caution children not to put any object into a body opening.
  • Supervise young children, especially children younger than age 4, to reduce the risk that they will put objects in their noses or other body openings.
  • Keep all objects small enough to be swallowed or inserted into body openings away from small children.
  • Store all disc batteries in a safe place out of the reach of children. Properly dispose of used disc batteries out of the reach of children.

Older children or adults should be cautious when working with small objects or if they have nose piercings.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your health professional diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What object is in the nose?
  • How long has the object been in the nose?
  • Has the object been removed from the nose? If the object has been removed:
    • Was it all in one piece?
    • Is there a chance that part of the object is still in the nose?
    • How long was the object in the nose?
    • What method did you use to remove the object?
    • Take the object with you to your appointment.
  • What measures have been tried to remove the object?
  • Since the object was inserted, what symptoms have developed or cleared up?
  • Do you have any health risks?

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
David Messenger, MD
Last Revised March 18, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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