You put it where? When something is stuck in the ear or nose
Parenting is full of delightful surprises and a few not-so-delightful surprises. If your child catches you off guard by getting something stuck in the ear or nose, here's how to handle it.
Why would they do that?
Trying to figure out how their body works is a normal developmental phase for small children. But if it includes sticking a small object in their ear or nose, a serious injury could occur that won't be healed by a mother's kiss alone.
Babies about 6 months old start using their mouths to explore the world. By 2 or 3 years, children are exploring their own bodies. Unfortunately, this sometimes includes putting items in their ears and nose. Children ages 3 to 8 are most likely to stick something in their nose or ear, although babies, younger toddlers, and children up to about 12 years old may do this, too.
No matter how unusual the item is, if it's small, it could end up stuck in your child's ear or nose. A few examples include:
- Button batteries
- Doll shoes
- Popcorn kernels
- Small magnets
- Tiny building blocks
Your child may stick a small object in their ear or nose when you're in another room. Something might be stuck for several minutes, hours, or even days before you know about it.
When a foreign body gets stuck in the ear
If your child has something in their ear, you may notice one or more of these signs:
- Complaints of ear pain
- Grabbing at the ear
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sticking fingers in the ear to try to remove the object
- Trouble hearing
What to do If something is stuck in the ear
If you can't easily see or reach the object, get immediate medical help. Otherwise , use your fingers or tweezers to gently remove it.
When you think something is there but can't completely see or reach it, try to use gravity:
- Tilt the child's ear with the object in it toward the ground.
- Ask them to gently shake their head.
If nothing comes out, seek medical help. Do not try to remove the object in any other way. If you accidentally push it farther in, it may cause an ear infection or damage the eardrum.
Even if you can remove the object yourself, make an appointment with your child's pediatrician to rule out potential damage or an ear infection.
A foreign object stuck in the nose
Symptoms of an object in the nose might include:
- Complaints of nose irritation or pain
- Drainage from the nose that smells bad
- Irritability, especially in babies and toddlers
- Runny nose, especially on just one side
- Sticking fingers in the nose to try to reach the object
- Trouble breathing out of the blocked side of the nose
How to get an object out of the nose
If you can easily see and reach the object with your fingers (never use tweezers in the nose), gently grab and remove it. Call your child's pediatrician or go to urgent care if the child has a nosebleed that lasts more than two to three minutes after the object is cleared. If there are signs of a sinus infection or continued irritation after removing the item, make an appointment with the pediatrician.
When you can't see or easily reach the object and your child can follow instructions, here's what to do:
- Tell them to breathe through their mouth.
- Hold the side of the nose without the object closed.
- Tell your child to blow gently through their nose.
- Call the pediatrician or go to urgent care if the object doesn't come loose with a couple of gentle nose blows.
If your child is unable to follow instructions, get medical attention.
Never try to get something out of your child's nose with a cotton swab, tweezers, or any other tool. If you can't see or easily reach the object, do not try to grab it. Doing these things can force the object further into the nose and may cause damage.
You should seek immediate emergency medical help if:
- The object in the nose is a button battery or small magnet.
- The child has difficulty breathing.
- The stuck object is pointy or sharp.
- Both sides of the nose are clogged.
Reid Health pediatricians are here for the expected and unexpected. Find a pediatrician near you.