Foreign Object Nasal Obstruction

Help My Child Shoved Rocks Up His Nose!

Kid with crayons stuck up his nose.
Kid with crayons stuck up his nose. D. Sharon Pruitt Pink Sherbet Photography/Getty Images

The first time your child gets something stuck up their nose may be a frightening experience. This is known as a foreign object nasal obstruction. This usually happens to curious children who just happen to think it might be a good idea to see if a watermelon seed might sprout up there. Or, as my mother said to the pediatrician after my little brother shoved gravel up his nose on the playground, "Help, my child shoved rocks up his nose!"

Kids naturally have the curiosity to put things where they don’t belong. They rearrange your cupboards, put things in power outlets, and they even put things up their nose. Sometimes, they will tell you that something is in their nose. While at other times, your children might put things in their nose and then forget about it, as was the case when my same brother put beans up his nose. You'd think he would have learned his lesson after the gravel incident.

How To Know Your Child Has Something Stuck Up Their Nose

Sometimes, the objects that are shoved up your child's nose will be large enough that you can see the object. However, sometimes the objects will be small enough that you will not know unless your child tells you. So how will you know that the foreign object is up there? A few signs to watch for include:

What to Do If Your Child Has Something Stuck Up Their Nose

Once you've established that something is indeed up your child's nose, here are a few suggestion that you can use to get the object out.

  • Don't pull it out unless it is hanging out of the nose, safely within reach and you are certain it has not damaged any tissue.
  • Do not try to remove items in the nose using cotton swabs, tweezers, or other household items. Doing so may push the object further up the nose.
  • If your child is old enough to understand, advise him to breathe through his mouth as not to suck the object up further.
  • In an attempt to blow the object out, have your child close the clear nostril and lightly blow out. Be careful not to forcefully blow out or accidentally inhale through the nose while doing this. One or two tries should be sufficient if this method will work. Repeatedly trying may cause more damage to the nose.
  • Seek medical help at once if you cannot dislodge or see the object.

One method that has been trialed in Canada and England includes the Mother's or Parent's Kiss. The term "kiss" is used to help reduce the stress of the procedure with you child. This may be less stressful than being restrained in the hospital if your child is resistant. No adverse complications have been noted in 8 trials, so this should be safe if performed carefully, however it is only effective approximately 6 out of 10 times. To perform this:

  1. What for your child to inhale.
  2. When your child is exhaling, close the nostril that does not have the foreign object
  3. "Kiss" your child using a technique like mouth-to-mouth
  4. Blow out until you feel resistance. This means the glottis (opening between the vocal cords) has closed.
  1. Then use a quick blow to try and push the object out of your child's nose.

What To Expect At The Hospital

The hospital will have specialized equipment including: suction, hooks, glues, and catheters. Each technique can have some risk for trauma if the objects are severely wedged, however the emergency department team will be prepared to treat nose bleeds that occur from the procedure. While the hospital may use suction, you should never use a vacuum cleaner to try and remove a foreign object. If the doctor suspects that a foreign object was swallowed, they will likely have an x-ray of the chest and abdomen done to see if there are any objects in the lungs or stomach. Sharp objects that are ingested are particularly dangerous and would require surgery

Prevention

Of course, prevention is the best course of action. There is no perfectly childproofed home. But you can try to keep smaller objects out of your child’s roaming area in order to help prevent this from happening. Education is also key. Try to teach children that other than eating, things do not belong in our mouths, ears, or nose.

Sources:

American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. Chapter 18: Pediatric Otolaryngology. Accessed: August 31, 2015 from http://www.entnet.org/sites/default/files/Oto-Primary-Care-WEB.pdf

American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. Stuffy Nose. Accessed: February 17, 2009 on http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/stuffyNose.cfm.

Cook, S. Burton, M. & Glaszio, P. (2012). Efficacy and safety of the “mother’s kiss” technique: a systematic review of case reports and case series. CMAJ. 184(17): E904–E912. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.111864

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