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Objects in the Nose

By Marvin P. Fried, MD, Professor and University Chairman, Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital of Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Cotton, paper, pebbles, beads, seeds, nuts, insects, button batteries, and beans are just a few of the many objects that children, intellectually impaired people, and psychiatric patients may occasionally put in their nose. People may also place similar foreign objects into their ears (see Ear Blockages).

Objects stuck up the nose are of particular concern because they can block the airway, cause infection, and be difficult to remove. Children are often scared to admit they put an object in their nose. Many parents become aware of the problem only when a child’s nose bleeds persistently, is runny, or has a foul-smelling discharge or when the child has difficulty breathing on only one side of the nose.

Doctors base the diagnosis on another person’s observation of the item being pushed into the nose or on an examination using a small instrument that spreads the nostrils (nasal speculum).

Doctors use a topical anesthetic and attempt to remove the object using a speculum and forceps. If these measures do not work, doctors may need to sedate people or give them a general anesthetic to remove the object.