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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

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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.
  • Take 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:

  • A nosebleed cannot be stopped with home treatment. See the topic Nosebleeds.
  • 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
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised March 23, 2011

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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