Foreign Body In The Nose
The nose can become blocked accidentally by a substance not normally found there. Such an object or material is called a foreign body.
What is going on in the body?
Occasionally, an object like a bead is put into the nose, where it may become stuck. This occurs most often among children. The object generally needs to be removed to prevent problems.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
A foreign body in the nose may be caused by the following:
- deliberately inserting a small object, such as a bean, into the nostril
- having the airway packed in a healthcare setting
- playing or roughhousing
Children (especially boys) are at a higher risk because they are more likely to put objects into their nose.
What can be done to prevent the condition?
People should not put any objects into the nose. Young children should not be allowed to play with small objects.
Children should be encouraged to let parents know right away if they do get something stuck in the nose or throat. This will allow the object to be removed immediately, before swelling or infection occurs.
How is the condition diagnosed?
Diagnosis of a foreign body in the nose begins with a medical history and physical exam. A foreign body is the most likely diagnosis if a young child has foul-smelling drainage from only one nostril. A special lighted instrument can be used to look inside the nostrils.
Long Term Effects
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Generally, there are no long-term effects. If the nose is severely injured, reconstructive surgery may be required.
What are the risks to others?
A foreign body in the nose is not contagious and poses no risk to others.
What are the treatments for the condition?
First aid for a suspected foreign body in the nose involves the following steps:
- Encourage the person to breathe slowly through the mouth. Any sudden or deep breath could force the object further into the nose.
- Gently press the other nostril closed and have the person blow through the affected nostril, if it is known which nostril the foreign object is in.
- Avoid blowing the nose too hard or repeatedly.
- Seek medical help if the above method fails. Do not try to get the object using tweezers, even if it is visible deep up in the cavity.
- Do not attempt to remove an object that is not easy to see and grasp. Doing so can push the object further up the nose.
Avoid the following when trying to remove a foreign body from the nose:
- grasping the object with tweezers or other tools, which can harm the nose
- probing for it with a cotton swab or other tool, which may push the object farther in
- squeezing or manipulating the nostrils
Treatment is aimed at removing the foreign body without making the situation worse. If first aid fails, a healthcare provider should be consulted. The provider may use special tools to remove the object. Rarely, this may need to be done in the operating room with general anesthesia.
Any infection may be treated with antibiotics.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Removal of the object may further harm the nose or cause bleeding. Antibiotics may cause allergic reactions or stomach upset. Surgery may can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or an allergic reaction to the anesthetic.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
Generally, the nose heals quickly and the person can return to normal activities. Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed.
How is the condition monitored?
Normally, no monitoring is required. If infection or severe injury occurs, a repeat visit to the healthcare provider may be advised. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.
Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, 1998, Cummings et al.
Emergency Medicine, 1998, Rosen et al.