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Nasal Foreign Body in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What is a nasal foreign body?

A nasal foreign body is an object that is stuck in your child's nose. This is most common in children ages 2 to 6.

What are some common nasal foreign bodies?

  • Food, such as beans or seeds
  • Pieces of sponge
  • Erasers
  • Small toys or pieces of toys
  • Beads or coins
  • Rocks or pebbles
  • Button batteries or magnets
  • Insects or worms

What are the signs and symptoms of a nasal foreign body?

  • Pain in your child's nose or sinuses
  • Trouble breathing through his or her nose
  • Bad breath
  • Bloody nose
  • A headache, itching, or sneezing

How is a nasal foreign body diagnosed?

Tell your child's healthcare provider if you know what object is in your child's nose. Tell the provider if you tried to remove the object. The provider will look into both of your child's nostrils with a nasal speculum. This is a small tool used to hold the nostrils open. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Rhinoscopy: Your child's healthcare provider will use a rhinoscope to look deeper into your child's nose. A rhinoscope is a small, thin tube with a light and camera on the end.
  • X-ray: This picture may show certain objects, such as metal, glass, and gravel.

How is a nasal foreign body treated?

  • Medicines:
    • Local anesthesia: This is medicine to numb in or around the nose before healthcare providers try to remove the object.
    • Sedative: This medicine is given to help your child stay calm and relaxed.
    • Pain medicine: Pain medicine may be given. Ask your child's provider how to give this medicine safely.
  • Removal procedures:
    • Tools: Tools, such as forceps or a clamp, may be used to grasp the object and pull it out. A curved hook may also be used to scoop the object out of the nose.
    • Positive pressure: A small tool is used to give a quick blow of air through your child's other nostril or mouth to blow the object out.
    • Suction: A small catheter is used to suck out the object from your child's nose. Suction is most often used when the object is round and smooth.
    • Glue: Glue is applied to a small stick, such as a cotton swab cut at one end. Your child's healthcare provider will insert the stick into your child's nose. The glue will stick to the object and your child's healthcare provider can pull the object out.
    • Balloon catheter: This procedure is done when other attempts to remove the object have failed. Your child's healthcare provider inserts a small rubber tube into your child's nose until it goes past the object. The balloon at the end of the catheter is filled with liquid. Your child's healthcare provider gently pulls the balloon out of your child's nose and the object comes out with it.
  • Repair: Your child may need stitches or medical glue to close a wound in his or her nose.
  • Surgery: Your child may need surgery to remove the object or repair nose damage.

What are the risks of a nasal foreign body?

The inside of your child's nose may be injured when the object is removed. The object may be accidentally pushed into your child's sinuses or throat during removal. This may block his or her airway. Without removal, the object may move into your child's sinuses. Your child may develop inflammation or infection of his or her sinuses. The thin wall of tissue that separates your child's nostrils may tear. Your child may inhale the object into his or her lungs.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's nose continues to bleed or drain pus after treatment.
  • Your child has a headache or pain in the cheeks or around the eyes.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your child vomits, gags, chokes, or drools.
  • Your child has neck or throat pain.
  • Your child cannot swallow.
  • Your child coughs, wheezes, or has noisy breathing.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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