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Objects in the Nose

Overview

Young children are more likely than older children or adults to put small objects up their noses. These include things like beads, dried beans, popcorn, plastic toy pieces, foam rubber, or small batteries. 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. They should be removed right away. 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 that line the nose. Seeds, such as beans or popcorn, can swell from the moistness of the nasal tissue. This can make them hard to remove.

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 and make it hard to breathe through the nose.

Infection can occur in the nose or in the sinuses after an object is inserted. 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's usually from only one nostril. The drainage may be clear at first but then turns yellow, green, or brown. It may smell bad. As the infection gets worse, symptoms of sinusitis or another infection will develop.

An object put 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 a car crash. You may not be aware of this because of other injuries.

Check Your Symptoms

Do you have a problem caused by an object in the nose?
Yes
Problem from an object in nose
No
Problem from an object in nose
How old are you?
Less than 12 years
Less than 12 years
12 years or older
12 years or older
Are you male or female?
Male
Male
Female
Female

The medical assessment of symptoms is based on the body parts you have.

  • If you are transgender or nonbinary, choose the sex that matches the body parts (such as ovaries, testes, prostate, breasts, penis, or vagina) you now have in the area where you are having symptoms.
  • If your symptoms aren’t related to those organs, you can choose the gender you identify with.
  • If you have some organs of both sexes, you may need to go through this triage tool twice (once as "male" and once as "female"). This will make sure that the tool asks the right questions for you.
Are you having trouble breathing (more than a stuffy nose)?
Yes
Difficulty breathing more than a stuffy nose
No
Difficulty breathing more than a stuffy nose
Would you describe the breathing problem as severe, moderate, or mild?
Severe
Severe difficulty breathing
Moderate
Moderate difficulty breathing
Mild
Mild difficulty breathing
Is there a disc battery stuck in the nose?
The battery needs to be removed right away-within 1 hour if possible.
Yes
Disc battery in nose
No
Disc battery in nose
Is an object stuck in the nose, and you can't remove it?
Yes
Object stuck in nose despite efforts to remove it
No
Object stuck in nose despite efforts to remove it
Do you think the nose may be infected?
Yes
Possible infection of nose
No
Possible infection of nose
Do you think you may have a fever?
Yes
Possible fever
No
Possible fever
Do you have diabetes or a weakened immune system?
What weakens the immune system in an adult or older child may be different than in a young child or baby.
Yes
Diabetes or immune problem
No
Diabetes or immune problem
Do you still have symptoms more than a week after the object was removed?
This could include symptoms such as a stuffy nose or swelling in the nose.
Yes
Symptoms 1 week after object was removed from nose
No
Symptoms 1 week after object was removed from nose

Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:

  • Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
  • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
  • Medicines you take. Certain medicines, such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), medicines that suppress the immune system like steroids or chemotherapy, herbal remedies, or supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
  • Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
  • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.

Try Home Treatment

You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.

  • Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.

Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:

  • You may feel a little out of breath but still be able to talk (mild difficulty breathing), or you may be so out of breath that you cannot talk at all (severe difficulty breathing).
  • It may be getting hard to breathe with activity (mild difficulty breathing), or you may have to work very hard to breathe even when you’re at rest (severe difficulty breathing).

Severe trouble breathing means:

  • You cannot talk at all.
  • You have to work very hard to breathe.
  • You feel like you can't get enough air.
  • You do not feel alert or cannot think clearly.

Moderate trouble breathing means:

  • It's hard to talk in full sentences.
  • It's hard to breathe with activity.

Mild trouble breathing means:

  • You feel a little out of breath but can still talk.
  • It's becoming hard to breathe with activity.

Severe trouble breathing means:

  • The child cannot eat or talk because he or she is breathing so hard.
  • The child's nostrils are flaring and the belly is moving in and out with every breath.
  • The child seems to be tiring out.
  • The child seems very sleepy or confused.

Moderate trouble breathing means:

  • The child is breathing a lot faster than usual.
  • The child has to take breaks from eating or talking to breathe.
  • The nostrils flare or the belly moves in and out at times when the child breathes.

Mild trouble breathing means:

  • The child is breathing a little faster than usual.
  • The child seems a little out of breath but can still eat or talk.

Symptoms of infection in the nose may include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the nose.
  • Pus or smelly drainage from the nose.
  • Fever.

Disc batteries are small, round batteries used in toys, cameras, watches, and other devices. Because of the chemicals they can release, they can cause serious problems if they are swallowed or get stuck in an ear or the nose. Small magnets used in household items and objects that contain a lot of lead (such as bullets, buckshot, fishing weights and sinkers, and some toys) also can cause problems if swallowed.

  • If a disc battery is stuck in the ear or nose:
    • The battery needs to be removed right away—within 1 hour if possible.
    • Use tweezers to try to remove the battery. If you can't remove it, get medical help.
  • If you have swallowed a disc battery, magnet, or lead object:
    • Get medical help right away.
    • Do not try to vomit.
    • Do not eat or drink anything.

There are a couple of ways to remove an object from the nose:

  • On the side that does not contain that object, press the nostril closed. Then blow hard through the nostril on the other side.
  • If your child can stay calm and you can see the object and grasp it, try to remove the object with tweezers. Do not try to grasp round objects because you could push the object farther back into the nostril. (Be careful not to hurt the inside of the nose with the tweezers.)

To remove an object from a child's nose, you can also try the "kiss" technique:

  • On the side that doesn't contain the object, press the nostril closed with your finger. (Or have the child do it, if he or she is old enough.)
  • Then blow a puff of air into the child's mouth. You may need to repeat this several times. The pressure will help push the object out of the nose.

Don't try this if it makes you nervous or if the child gets upset or says it hurts.

Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:

  • Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS.
  • Long-term alcohol and drug problems.
  • Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety of conditions.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Other medicines used to treat autoimmune disease.
  • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
  • Not having a spleen.

Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:

  • Diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and congenital heart disease.
  • Steroid medicines, which are used to treat a variety of conditions.
  • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Not having a spleen.

Seek Care Today

Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.

  • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
  • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
  • If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

Call 911 or other emergency services now.

Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.

Seek Care Now

Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

  • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
  • You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
    • You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
    • You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.

Make an Appointment

Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.

  • Make an appointment to see your doctor in the next 1 to 2 weeks.
  • If appropriate, try home treatment while you are waiting for the appointment.
  • If symptoms get worse or you have any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.

Self-Care

How to remove an object from the nose

  1. Breathe through your mouth since the nose is blocked.
  2. Pinch closed the side of the nose that doesn't have the object in it.

    You may need to help a child pinch their nose.

  3. Try to blow the object out of the blocked side.

    Be sure to only blow out. Don't try to breathe in through your nose. This could cause the object to choke you or block your airway.

  4. Blow your nose forcefully several times.

    This may blow the object out of the nose.

  5. Use fingers or tweezers if the object is partially out of the nose.

    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 the nose may occur after the object is removed. This usually is not serious and should stop after firmly pinching the nose shut for 10 minutes.

Remove disc battery quickly

A disc battery in the nose must 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.

If you or your child has a disc battery in the nose, do not use nose drops or sprays of any type. This can cause the battery to corrode more quickly.

You may try to remove the disc battery yourself. But if you are not able to remove it, contact your doctor immediately. If you are not able to contact your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

Disc batteries are found in toys, watches, hearing aids, cameras, calculators, and some remote-controlled devices. They are also called button cell batteries. These batteries are small, usually less than 0.5 in. (1.3 cm) across, and can be easily inserted into the nose.

Caring for yourself after removing the object

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.
  • Use a saline nasal spray to help loosen mucus.
  • Check the back of your throat for postnasal drip. If streaks of mucus appear, gargle with warm water to prevent a sore throat.
  • Keep your head raised at night by sleeping on an extra pillow. This will decrease nasal stuffiness.
  • If your nose is still stuffy, you can try a decongestant or a steroid nasal spray.

    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. Avoid products that contain antihistamines, which dry the nasal tissue.

When to call for help during self-care

Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:

  • New trouble breathing.
  • New signs of infection, such as swelling, pus, or a fever.
  • Symptoms occur more often or are more severe.

Preparing For Your Appointment

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: March 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine