So Your Kid Stuck Something Up Her Nose
Babies and toddlers are the world’s best magicians: One minute, they’ve picked up a coin, and the next minute, it has disappeared! But this coin – or Lego piece, or TicTac, or anything small – won’t reappear from a tophat. Chances are, it’s been stuffed straight up the nose.
Getting foreign objects stuck in the nose is a common occurrence in childhood, almost a rite of passage. That doesn’t make it less scary for the parents. But simple first aid can make this just a bump in the road, rather than a trip to the doctor’s office.
FIRST STEP: PREVENT
While getting objects stuck in the nose is not unusual for children, it’s best if the situation can be avoided. The most common objects stuck in kids’ noses include: small stones, small toys, tissue, food, dirt, arts and crafts material (like clay, small rubber pieces), and food. Keeping an eye on your child while he handles any of these objects goes a long way to preventing stopped noses.
But even when we’re on the lookout, accidents happen.
SECOND STEP: KNOW THE SIGNS
Objects in the nose are not obvious, and your child may not tell you he or she has inserted something there. You may not realise until a few hours — or even days – have passed. Bleeding or discharge from the affected nostril can be a sign, as are any complaints of discomfort.
THIRD STEP: STAY CALM
Panicking will only make you less effective in helping your child and scare her more. There’s no need for anxiety: An object in the nose is only a medical emergency if your child cannot breathe — an extremely unlikely event, since she can breathe through her other nostril or mouth. And remember: If the object is a natural substance, such as food, mucus in your child’s nose will eventually break it down and dissolve it naturally.
Still, as your child is likely in some pain or discomfort, clearing her nostril is the best course. Keep her calm and encourage her to breathe through her mouth. This will help her regulate her breathing (so there’s no fearful hyperventilating) and prevent the object from being sucked further into the nostril.
FOURTH STEP: LOOK
Always look into your child’s nostril to see where the object is before you attempt to remove it.
FIFTH STEP: EXTRACT
Do NOT use your finger, a cotton bud or anything else to try and get the object out; this is likely to push the object further up the nostril.
Instead, if the object is near the nostril opening, you may be able to use flat tweezers to remove it. Do not use sharp or pointed tweezers to do this, as it could cut your child’s nostril, cause more pain, and increase risk of infection.
If the object is too far to reach with flat tweezers, try extracting it by:
- Sneezing. The force of the air from your child’s sneeze may push the object out or at least move it closer to the opening, where you may get to it with tweezers. You can encourage him to sneeze by having him sniff some plain black pepper with his clear nostril.
- Sucking. Use a nasal aspirator to try sucking out the object. A nasal bulb won’t work for this; you will need to use a nasal aspirator with a tube that allows you to create suction. I suggest keeping either of these aspirators on hand.
If none of these methods work, take your child to his pediatrician for further assessment and intervention.
Once the object has been extracted, your child may still need some simple follow-up care. If she has a nose bleed, treat accordingly. (Learn how to treat nosebleeds at home on The Swaddle.) With or without a nose bleed, make sure she sleeps with her head slightly elevated that night, to allow any swelling to go down.
Finally, if your child’s mucus becomes yellowish or smell bad, she may have an infection. In this case, consult your pediatrician, as antibiotics may be required.