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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 present for a period of time without a parent being aware of the problem. The object may only be discovered when visiting a doctor to find the cause of irritation, bleeding, infection, or difficulty breathing.

Symptoms

  • 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

  1. Do not search the nose with cotton swabs or other tools. Doing so may push the object further into the nose.
  2. Have the person breathe through the mouth. He or she should avoid breathing in sharply, which may force the object in further.
  3. Once you known which side of the nose is affected, gently press the other nostril closed and have the person blow gently. Avoid blowing the nose too hard or repeatedly.
  4. If this method fails, get medical help.

Do Not

  • DO NOT try to remove an object that you cannot see or is not easy to grasp. This can push the object farther in or cause damage to tissue.
  • DO NOT use tweezers or other tools to remove an object that is stuck deep inside the nose.

Call immediately for emergency medical assistance if

Seek immediate medical help if:

  • Bleeding develops and continues beyond 2 or 3 minutes after removal of 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 that inhaled the foreign object

Prevention

  • Discourage children from putting foreign objects into body openings.
  • Keep small objects out of the reach of infants and toddlers.

References

Thomas SH, White BA. Foreign bodies. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 57.


Review Date: 1/12/2011
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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