Is Something Stuck in Your Child’s Nose? Try a ‘Mother’s Kiss’

How you can help your child — and when to see a doctor
Is Something Stuck in Your Child’s Nose? Try a 'Mother's Kiss'

A young child loves to experiment. He’s inquisitive and he has no fear, so if he finds a coin on the floor, it’s just as likely to go in his nose as in his piggy bank.

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Foreign bodies stuck in the nose are a common occurrence in children ages 2 to 5 — and sometimes even for children as old as 7 or 8, says Purva Grover, MD, Medical Director of Cleveland Clinic Children’s Pediatric Emergency Departments.

She says kids are more likely to put small things like beads or popcorn kernels in their noses, but she sees a “whole variety of things.”

Here’s what you need to know if your child lodges something in his or her little nostril.

What are the signs of trouble?

Dr. Grover says parents typically know when their child has put something in the nose. You’ll often see him contemplating the act from across the room and get to the little one … just after the object goes in.

But sometimes doctors find foreign objects during a routine office exam. This happens more often with older children who don’t want to get in trouble or those with developmental delays who can’t tell a parent what happened, Dr. Grover says.

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If you don’t see your child put anything in her nose, but you think there might be a problem, watch for these signs:

  • A foul-smelling odor coming from just one side of the nose
  • Symptoms similar to a sinus infection, like high fever or dark green mucus coming from the nose

If there is something stuck in your child’s nostril, it’s important to act quickly — either try to remove it or take your child to the doctor right away. If you delay, an infection can develop. In rare cases — especially if it’s left in the nose overnight — the object can get sucked into the airway and possibly cause choking.

Best removal method — a ‘mother’s kiss’

Dr. Grover says most foreign objects in the nose won’t come out unless a parent or doctor removes them — especially for small children, who aren’t very good at blowing their noses.

There are two important things to remember if this happens to your child:

1. Try once, then get help – Make only one attempt to remove the object on your own (unless you believe the situation is life threatening). The more times you try, the less cooperative your child will be when the doctor tries to remove it. This increases the likelihood of needing an operation to remove the object.

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2. ‘Mother’s kiss’ method – If you do try to handle the situation at home, Dr. Grover recommends using the “mother’s kiss” method, which works best for small, hard objects like beads. Follow these steps for the kiss method:

  • Place your mouth over your child’s mouth.
  • Hold the nostril that isn’t blocked closed with a finger.
  • Blow gently into your child’s mouth.

You can use this process to remove hard objects without a doctor’s help. Using this gentle pressure to force the object out is successful about 60 percent of the time, Dr. Grover says. A doctor typically will need to remove softer objects made of foam or tissue.

One final tip: Look for other objects

Putting foreign objects in the nose is a habitual thing, Dr. Grover says. This means that if a child has put something in his nose, he is likely to have also tried putting something somewhere else — like maybe in an ear, too.

So if you find one stuck object, don’t forget to look for more.

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