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Foreign Object in the Ear or Nose

Children may put objects into their nose and ears as part of their exploration of the world. Unfortunately, these items can injure fragile tissue and may be hard to remove. A foreign object in the nose can cause infection and affect breathing. An object in the ear may puncture the eardrum or lead to hearing loss.

Woman holding toddler boy on lap. Healthcare provider is examining boy's ear with otoscope.
The doctor uses a lighted instrument to examine an object stuck in the ear or nose.

When to Go to the Emergency Room (ER)

If you can't see or easily grasp the object, call your pediatrician or go to the emergency room. Avoid poking the object with cotton swabs or other tools. This may cause further damage.

What to Expect in the ER

The doctor will examine your child's nose or ear using a lighted instrument. A speculum may be used to widen the opening to the ear or nose. Removal of the object will depend on the object and its location. Your child may be asked to expel an object from the nose with hard blowing. To remove an object, your child is given local anesthetic to block pain. Then, the doctor removes the object with a tiny clamp or hook. A gentle stream of water may dislodge an object in the ear. If the object cannot be removed by these means, the doctor may use suction or a small hook. In that case, general anesthesia may be given to your child to help him or her "sleep" through the procedure.

Follow-up

Call your health care provider if your otherwise healthy child has any of the signs or symptoms below:

  • Fever:

    • In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

    • In a child 3 to 36 months, a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0°C) or higher

    • In a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher

    • A fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older

    • A seizure caused by the fever 

  • Redness or swelling

  • Pain

  • Pus draining from the nose or ear

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Grantham, Paula, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Hanrahan, Maura, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/12/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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