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Objects in the nose

5-minute read

What is an object in the nose?

Children often like to experiment by placing objects up their nose. The object can become stuck or injure the inside of the nose. You might not realise it is there.

If you think a child has an object in their nose, take them to see a doctor. If the object contains chemicals (like a button battery) or is a bean (which can swell) you should go to the Emergency Department.

Objects that often get stuck up children’s noses include:

  • beads
  • sweets
  • small toys or parts of toys
  • pieces of food

When should I see my doctor?

If your child has an object in their nose, don’t try to remove it yourself because you could cause a further injury. It’s better to take your child to a doctor.

If the object is a button battery (which can burn and corrode) or a bean (which can swell), it’s a medical emergency and you should go straight to the Emergency Department.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

How is an object in the nose diagnosed?

Your doctor will look into the nose with a light and an instrument. They may order a CT scan for a better look.

How is an object in the nose treated?

If you think that there is an object stuck in your nose, you could hold your finger over the other nostril then try to blow the object out. If that doesn’t work, then see a doctor.

Your doctor can remove the object with a special instrument. Children may need to be sedated to allow a doctor to do this.

Avoid sniffing to reduce the risk of breathing in the object. If you are in pain, get advice on the pain relief medicines you can take.

If you develop symptoms of an infection:

  • don’t try to block or prevent any fluids or discharge from the nose
  • don’t attempt to clean any fluids or discharge that are inside the nose
  • gently wipe away any fluids or discharge from the outside of nose using soft tissues as often as you need to
  • throw used tissues away immediately
  • wash and dry your hands regularly to prevent the spread of infection

Can an object in the nose be prevented?

If possible, teach children not to insert objects into their nose. Any object smaller than a D-size battery can choke a young child. Make sure children under 3 cannot reach batteries (especially small button batteries), needles, pins, coins, marbles, the tops of ballpoint pens or polystyrene beads.

You can also:

  • choose toys that are appropriate for the age of the child
  • be aware that toys may have small parts that can be removed
  • encourage older children to keep their toys away from younger children
  • supervise children under the age of three at all times they are in contact with small objects, which include small items of food such as peas, beans or watermelon seeds

What are the complications of an object in the nose?

An object in the nose might go undetected until symptoms develop. It can become infected or cause a nosebleed.

The signs of an infection are:

  • pain in or around the nose or cheekbones
  • a runny nose and a discharge that may be yellow or green and may also be blood stained or smell unpleasant
  • redness or swelling around the nose
  • feeling stuffy

Once the object is removed, it is still possible to get an infection, especially if the object had been in place for some time, part of the object is still in place or a second, undetected object is stuck in the nose.

Even if the object has come out, it’s important to see a doctor if there is:

  • bleeding
  • a discharge
  • a rash below the nostrils
  • pressure on the sinuses

The other complication of an object in the nose is that it can be accidentally breathed in. That could cause breathing difficulties, coughing or wheezing.

If an object becomes stuck in the air passages, go to the nearest emergency department. You should call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance if:

  • you become too breathless to talk
  • you develop very rapid breathing, or have to put a lot of effort into breathing
  • you feel faint or as if you might pass out

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2020

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