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Pediatric Foreign Bodies of The Ear and Nose: Symptoms and Removal

January 12th, 2023 | 5 min. read

By Kathleen Rose McDonald, MD

foreing objects in childrens nose and ear houston ent 2

Infants and young children can put objects like food, toys, or other small items in their ears or noses, causing hearing or breathing problems. When breathed into the lungs, certain materials can cause infections in kids that may require immediate treatment.

Successful removal of such foreign bodies would depend on their location inside the ear or nose, the type of material, the graspability or lack of it, depending on its texture, the child’s cooperation, and the skill of the physician performing the act.

 Does your child have something stuck in their nose or ear and need it removed by an ent doctor asap?

Houston ENT and Allergy has 10 convenient locations throughout the Houston, TX  area with access to some of the best ENT doctors available. Click the schedule an appointment now with same-day availability at many of our locations. 




Pediatric Foreign Bodies of the Nose

Objects that are put in a child’s nose are usually of a softer texture. They can be tissues, little toys, clay, or erasers, to name a few objects. In some cases, foreign bodies can enter the child’s nose when trying to smell the object.

Children can insert objects in their noses out of curiosity, boredom, or while copying other children.


Who can remove a foreign body of the nose?

Objects stuck in the child’s nose should be removed by an expert medical practitioner. Usually, experienced ear, nose, and throat specialists can use specialized equipment to remove such objects.

On the other hand, an inexperienced person can lodge the object deep into the throat, blocking airways and causing damage. Also, while removing toxic items, like batteries, an inexperienced person can cause the leaking of harmful substances, causing more harm to the child.


Nasal drainage can be a common symptom when a child has any foreign object inserted in their nose. Drainage usually occurs on one side of the nose where the foreign object has been placed and often has a bad odor. Sometimes, the child can also have a bloody nose.

Removal and treatment:

Removal of a foreign object placed in the child’s nose is the best way to treat the symptoms. Sometimes, the child needs to be sedated by the healthcare provider to remove the object.

Your child’s healthcare provider can remove the object from the child’s nose using the following techniques.

  • The object can be blown out of the child’s nose. In such a case, you need to keep the unaffected nostril shut while placing your mouth directly over the child’s mouth as if to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Keep your child’s mouth open while you blow forcibly into their mouth. The forced air will go through the mouth into the child’s blocked nose, blowing the object out.
  • Suction machines with attached tubes can be used to suck out the foreign object.
  • Other instruments can be used inside the nose to bring out the lodged object.

In the case of harmful substances, like batteries, the removal procedure is usually performed on an emergency basis by experienced ear, nose, and throat specialists in the operating room.

After removing the foreign object from the child’s nose, a nasal endoscopy can be performed. A small tube-like instrument is used to look in the surrounding area for any damage resulting from the object removal.

The child’s healthcare provider shall also prescribe antibiotic ointments and nasal drops to treat infections if any.

Possible complications:

Removing foreign bodies from the nose can cause irritation and some bleeding in the nasal area. In some cases, the removal procedure can push the object further into the throat, blocking the airways. However, such complications are rare when the procedure is performed by an experienced ear, nose, and throat specialist.


Pediatric foreign bodies of the ears

Foreign bodies can get stuck in the child’s ear lobe or ear canal. Usually, items like earrings can get stuck in the ear lobes causing infection, or they can get lodged too deep in the ear lobe during placement, causing pain and infection.

A child can push any small object into the ear canal, which can get stuck in there. Some items that can get stuck when pushed into the ear canal are:

  • Toys
  • Small batteries
  • Food particles
  • Insects
  • Buttons 
  • Crayon pieces

Parents must be aware of the harm children can cause by putting small things into their ears or of other children. Children can put such small items in their ears because of curiosity or boredom or during play.

Insects can also fly into the ear canal, causing pain and infection. Children who put small items in the ear canal are more susceptible to ear infections.


Who can remove a foreign body from the ears?

Generally, removing a foreign body from the ear canal is not an emergency procedure, and anyone with the necessary knowledge and expertise can perform it.

However, ear, nose, and throat specialists are equipped with specialized tools that can remove such items without causing pain or further damage to the ears. In contrast, an inexperienced person can lodge the foreign body further into the ear canal, causing inflammation and pain.


Some objects may not have any symptoms, while other items like food or insects can decompose inside the ear canal, causing pain, redness, and drainage from infections.

The child’s hearing can be affected by foreign objects lodged inside the ear canal.

Removal and treatment:

Prompt removal of the foreign body lodged inside the ear is the best treatment in such a case.

Your child’s healthcare provider can use the following techniques to dislodge any foreign object stuck in their ear canal.

  • Sometimes the best way to remove food and any foreign particles would be to flush the ear canal with water. Water can be injected into the ear canal to remove any food lodged inside it.
  • Where a metallic object is stuck in the ear canal, a magnet can be used to remove it safely.
  • Where the foreign object is hard and easy to grasp, long thin tweezers or forceps can be used to grab the item inside the ear and remove it safely.
  • A machine with suction can be used to suck out a foreign body.

Where removal of the object is emergent or previous techniques were unsuccessful, and the patient is uncooperative, removal of such an object can be done under general anesthesia.

After removing the foreign object, the child’s healthcare provider will examine the ear canal thoroughly and look for any possible damage or infection. The physician can prescribe antibiotic ear drops to treat any possible outer ear infections on the site.

A hearing test can also be done to check any impact on the child’s hearing ability.

Possible complications:

The complication of leaving the foreign object inside the ear canal is far more damaging than removing it from the ears. The child might suffer from an ear infection, irritation, or bleeding after removing the object. It can also cause a rupture of the eardrum (tympanic membrane).


Houston ENT & Allergy Can Help With Pediatric Foreign Bodies of the Ear and Nose

Houston ENT & Allergy is one of the nation’s largest and most progressive practices in ear, nose, and throat medicine. We currently have a medical practice with 10 locations throughout the Houston area

At Houston ENT & Allergy, we serve any and all patients with ear, nose, and throat problems, including children.

Each of our clinics is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments that aim to treat your ear, nose, and throat-related concerns quickly and with the utmost precision.

If you live in the greater Houston area and your child has a foreign body stuck in their nose or ears, you must seek immediate treatment. As we specialize in ear, nose, and throat problems, we are best equipped to diagnose and remove any foreign objects in your child’s nose or ear and follow it up with the necessary treatments.

At each of our locations, we have board-certified doctors who are highly experienced. They will deliver the medical assistance your child requires and give parents like you peace of mind that they are in good hands. And, we offer same-day appointments, which can be so appreciated when your child has a foreign object stuck in their nose or their ear. 

Visit our website to find a location near you and schedule an appointment today. 


Kathleen Rose McDonald, MD